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Skymom

Wilmette, IL, IL, US
contributor

craft interests: sewing, crochet, knitting

Member Since: 04/23/2009

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Charles James: The Exhibition

See for yourself what's inside the designer's gorgeous gowns--thanks to a magnificent museum show.

Exhibition: "Chic Chicago" at the Chicago History Museum

Yes, Virginia. There is fashion outside of New York City!


recent comments

Re: Sleepwear patterns

It's worth noting that the patterns listed above as Clotilde's are actually designed by Jan Bones, of sewinglingerie.com. I've made a few of Jan's designs, and they're really good. Not super-fancy, but well-drafted with straightforward, easy-to-sew instructions. Because these garments are meant for comfort as much as style, Jan carefully considers fit (the undies don't creep up!), and offers great ideas for smooth, non-chafing seams that don't require a serger.

If you have a guy in your life who's particular about his underpinnings, check out Jan's patterns for men.

Re: A Nice Little Suit

Do you know when this suit dates from? It's great!

Re: Fashionably royal patterns

Hooray for getting away from strapless! So many brides are forced to squeeze into strapless gowns that aren't as flattering as they could be. Say no to the "toothpaste tube" look, and yes to gorgeous, slender, lacy sleeves.

FWIW, my 10-year-old daughter loved KM's dress, but said all her friends thought it wasn't fancy enough. I guess they should review the Charles and Di footage for a fix of puffy grandeur!

I found the most interesting part of the entire wedding bonanza, fashionwise, to be the hats. Wow! Good, bad, and just plain crazy.

Re: The Blog for Men Who Sew (And the Women Who Sew For Them)

Peter also has a great sense of style, so his creations are always inspiring--note,too, that many of his pieces are made of recycled materials. He's got a good eye for seeing how to remake an old sheet into current fashion, something that both men and women can learn from. I have a friend whose college-age son needs to know about this blog--I'll pass the word on!

Re: "Kwik" to Sew and Easy to Wear

Someone, please make the sailor-style shorts (in size 6 or 8) and post a photo...yeah, I want to see them in action! So cute--I might actually consider wearing shorts again (after several years of eschewing them completely.

Re: The Bullfighter's Jacket

That's pretty fantastic! Usually, heavily embellished pieces are meant for ballrooms or courts or something--not for armor, so it's really amazing that this has stood up to so much use.

Oh, I guess ballet/dance costumes get a lot of wear and tear, although not so much with the horns of a 2-ton beast!

Re: Project Runway: Season 8 - Finale Part 2

NikkiLyra, I don't understand what you mean about Threads being a "member" of Project Runway. There is no such thing as membership in Project Runway, and Threads has (as far as I know) no affiliation whatsoever with the program. They merely host this discussion, because so many Threads readers watch the show and like to share their opinions about it. Threads therefore can't make changes to the program, so even if you're unhappy with the show, please don't hold it against Threads.

Re: Project Runway: Season 8 - Finale Part 2

I've been meaning to ask--and I hope someone can help me out with this: I am unable to understand the Gretchen granny-panty trend. Apparently she got away with showing those awful briefs because they're "current" and "now," but I have never seen a pair on a person or in a store or in a magazine. Who would wear them, and where are they intended to be worn? I saw Rihanna wearing short shorts on SNL, but even they weren't as short and shlumpy as Gretchen's. I can't fathom any scenario appropriate to such a garment, even if these bloomers were remotely flattering. I'm confused!

Re: Project Runway: Season 8 - Finale Part 2

I'm still reeling a bit from this insane outcome. When Jessica Simpson and Heidi are the judges who make the most sense, you know something's wacky. It's beyond me to understand what Nina and Michael Kors were thinking. For one thing, there are plenty of examples of high fashion that's "current and now" that very closely resembles the direction Mondo went with his work. But I think Mondo really stuck to his unique vision, and made it clear that that's what drove him, while Gretchen bought into commercial/fashion-mag type trends, which basically was kissing up to Nina and MK.

Like most of you posters, I too couldn't/wouldn't wear Gretchen's clothes, even if you revamped them in a color scheme that's flattering to a non-redhead. I actually tried on a long, flowing dress in a similar print, but blues/greens/purples this past summer, and decided it just looked ridiculous. Just too drably bohemian and inexpensive and shapeless. Oh, and ugly.

Mondo, on the other hand, made a bunch of things that were fun and wearable, even by someone pushing middle-age. No, I wouldn't wear the skull-print top, or the plaid bubble dress, or the bias-plaid pants, but versions of the polka-dot top, several other skirts and tops--sure! I'd have a blast mixing those with existing items I own. I don't see his work as junior at all, just fun and youthful and refreshing.

As for Andy: I loved his collection, but recognize that it had some real problems. The color range was, like Gretchen's, possibly too narrow, and that lovely pale gray is gorgeous but not entirely suitable for many seasons and climates. There were plenty of details to admire, however, and I think creative sewers probably were more inspired than most looking at those pieces. Overall I liked Andy a lot as a designer and hope his career takes off from this.

Well, I'm not saying I wouldn't watch PR again, but I'll be a less enthusiastic viewer. Yesterday I caught an old episode of PR, season 2, maybe? It was Santino, Chloe Dao, and Daniel Vosovic getting ready for their finale. The quality of the collections was so much better than this season's that I was actually rather shocked. What happened to this season? Aside from the killer challenges, I mean?! I hope the show gets back on track so we can enjoy seeing the design process and some interesting fashion.

Re: Project Runway: We're in a New York State of Mind

There are a couple of aspects of the show this season that have stood out for me. The first is that the challenges seem harder and/or lamer than in the past. With shorter deadlines, and those added garments that pop up, it's more about surviving the strain than really doing excellent work. Under these circumstances, I don't know how anyone even completes a garment! It has never seemed quite to fraught in seasons past. While I can understand that the producers might want to increase the drama by upping the anxiety, I think they've reached a point of diminishing returns. I wouldn't care that much about the interpersonal drama (mostly it just bores me), but it's not accompanied by a corresponding increase in the quality of the designs.

The second is that there was a lot of time wasted in the early episodes on guest judges who didn't contribute much. Rachel Roy and Naeem Khan and Norma Kamali stood out for me as somewhat insightful; I expected more from Christian Siriano than we got...but of course a lot of this could easily be editing. It would be interesting to find out from the contestants which judges actually gave them useful criticism.

As phony as Gretchen sounded expressing her reverence for Tim Gunn last week, I could totally understand where she was coming from. He's the only voice of sanity!

Re: Project Runway: We're in a New York State of Mind

It surprised me that April was sent home when Gretchen made the worst look--and has made a few losers already. I didn't love April's dress, or even much like it, but it at least had some actual design and drama. It seems unfair that now, after all the weeks of her sameness, the judges suddenly complain and kick her off. Andy's dress wasn't too different from some of his earlier work...and same with Mondo and Michael. Gretchen did try to step out of her comfort zone (at least that's her story, and she's sticking to it!), and got criticized for it.

I'm guessing Michael C's dress garnered all the praise because everything else was pretty humdrum. (Correction: Mondo and Andy made very viable garments--just not super wow-factors for me.) His black gown was the sort of thing that looks actually easy to wear, with just the right blend of drama (low back, high slit) and safeness (unfitted silhouette and basic black color), and might well be quite saleable. But was it original design? I don't see it. I still see Mondo as the most original designer of the bunch.

As for fashion week, I secretly think Gretchen could do a pretty good show, much as I disliked her on-screen persona. She didn't seem to take well to the challenges (as she pointed out this week!), and might do better when left to her own devices. She seems to have a one-track mind (Me, me, me, me, my taste, my ideas, my palette, my silhouetts, me, me, me), and that inflexibility, along with her exhaustion, was probably her downfall. That is, it would have been her downfall this week if the judges/producers hadn't pre-determined that Gretchen must stay in order to maintain the desired level of drama.

Re: Project Runway: There's a Pattern Here

I haven't much liked anything Gretchen has designed so far, but I did watch her audition video, and I thought her work was pretty good. It hung together as a collection, and she had some nice dyed effects that were sort of elegant hippie. Everything that would look good on a tall, skinny person, but not necessarily something I'd wear! Simple, flowing, muted colors (but not all neutrals)--overall quite tasteful and attractive. But not high fashion, in my book.

That's why I've been liking Mondo's designs so far. He really approaches fashion design as an art, and he seems to have a mastery of all the important elements: color, pattern, proportion, detail, and fit, as well as an understanding of current trends and how to tweak them to say something new. And he's always come off as a decent, nice person, while having that amazing personal style that amuses me every week.

I'm apparently not conversant in goth girl, because everything April makes looks more or less the same to me. Probably someone who like that look appreciates all the nuances, but since I'd never wear a fluttery anything over hot pants, it's lost on me. Also, I can't figure out those black stockings she wears, with the dark black bands. I guess if you're 21...

Re: Project Runway: Race to the Finish

I really liked both of Mondo's pieces--he showed he can do "More is better" and "Less is more" equally well.

Michael did need some editing, and the RTW proportions seemed way off to me. Not too sure about that peplum thingy! I guess Ivy was the right choice for the auf, and Valerie did fall apart (though her white gown moved nicely on the runway), but the one I disliked the most by far was Christopher's. To coin a Kors-ism: It looks like Oksana Bayul on top of "Whipped Cream and other delights" on top of Miss Pageant Runner-up 1998. As disjointed a dress as I've ever seen, and none of the parts was particularly successful. Of course, he's a total cutie and a nice guy, so I'm glad he's still around.

April and Gretchen don't do much for me (former: too edgy; latter: too shapeless and droopy), but you have to admit they've each established their point of view and are sticking to it. Andy, too, for the most part. Overall, though, I'm shocked to find myself thinking that if I could hire one of these contestants to design for me, it would be Mondo.

Re: Project Runway: A Rough Day on the Runway

OPStitcher, it wasn't Andy who did the cartridge pleats, it was Michael D. (who was sent home). His pleats are, as far as I understand the term, genuine cartridge pleats--you don't see a lot of them these days, so I was kind of intrigued with them and wouldn't have sent him home just because of those!

My sense with this challenge is that no one really understood the brief, designers or judges. Modern American sportswear, expressing each designer's point of view, with Jackie O as inspiration. Does that mean something she'd wear then or now? Hard to know, and in any case, at what period of her life? She was always pretty classic, but her look wasn't stagnant--there's lots in her wardrobe history to consider. (She may have been a style icon, but I admit that some of her looks kind of bore me today, even though I can tell the garments are amazingly well-made. Sue me!) I did think Mondo was closest, and I liked his look best, Jackie O or not.

As for the judges, I can live with hearing criticism, but they're pretty unhelpful. It's mostly jeering and name-calling (typical schoolyard bullying), with very few specifics about what went wrong in any particular look. "The proportions aren't right" just isn't enough for me anymore, nor is "Your taste level is questionable." It could be the editing, though. I gather we're seeing only a few minutes of hours of discussion.

Re: Project Runway: What's Mine is Yours

To AHH: Please note that Threads is not expressing an editorial opinion about the garments shown on Project Runway, which is a TV program that airs on Lifetime and has nothing to do with Threads magazine at all. Threads is merely hosting this discussion for viewers who enjoy sharing their thoughts on the show.

Those of us who participate in this discussion are sewers, designers, and fashion mavens who like to exchange our views on what makes for good design and good TV, and we appreciate that Threads makes this forum available to us.

Re: Our Friend, Fred Bloebaum

I wore a La Fred design (the Athena blouse which I made as a jacket), to a job interview, and not only did the interviewer compliment me on my outfit, but I got the job, and it was the best job of my career. Later, I met Fred at sewing expos, and so enjoyed knowing the "fairy godmother" behind that elegant, classy line of designs. Fred was not just talented, smart, and sophisticated, she was also funny and down-to-earth...we'll all miss her.

Re: Project Runway: What's Mine is Yours

Design-wise, there wasn't all that much to love this week, I thought. I definitely wouldn't have given April the win, even though her design was interesting. It just looked too much like lingerie to me. Would anyone--even Heidi or Kristen Bell--really wear that to a resort? It's not good as a bathing suit, can't really go into a restaurant...I just don't see who would wear it, or when or how.

I liked Michael D's black dress--it had the right mix of simple silhouette with that intriguing strappy business at the top, and the fabric looked kind of cool (he said it was linen, but I think it must have been a blend with silk or metallic or something to have that shimmer). Andy's outfit was a good piece of resortwear, I thought, but when it comes down to it, maybe I just don't know what "resort" is. I thought it was essentially summer clothes that you design and sell early, so people can get a head start on their spring shopping once they've become bored with winter. How many people actually purchase new wardrobes for a resort vacation during the winter, anyway? Either way, what does April's insane-asylum/dominatrix-wear have to do with it?

While Casanova's look didn't say "resort," it was kind of elegant, and certainly more so than the ho-hum Eileen Fisher reject outfit Ivy put out there. She not only didn't design anything, she also didn't work well with her partner, and that would have been enough for me to send her home.

The folks in the middle were justifiably there--Gretchen's designs are getting really predictable in color, detail, and silhouette; Valerie's weird vest was unflattering; Michael C's thing was too disco for my taste (but at least it had a joie de vivre I associate with resort); Christopher's was actually nice-looking but slightly safe (just as well, really).

As for Mondo, I was sorry he seemed so lost with this challenge. His design was not uncute at all, just not sophisticated (and his model did NOT work it on the runway!). But he won all the points in my book for his willingness to admit that he'd misjudged Michael C as a person, a designer, and craftsman.

Re: Project Runway: You Can Totally Wear That Again

By the way, I believe Tim Gunn will be on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tonight (Tuesday). Two of my favorite guys! I'll be setting my DVR, in case I don't stay up late enough.

Re: Project Runway: You Can Totally Wear That Again

Gretchen's model looks like she rode her bike to work on a wet and muddy day. Just saying.

I'm not a huge fan of Michael C's dress--just too busy a style for my taste--but I can see that it was a lot of work and despite a few construction issues, came out pretty well. I'd have loved for Mondo to win with his cool, chic design. Valerie: take note. This is how color-blocking should work. I find Valerie great fun, but her design this week was not her best. Glad she slipped through.

Michael D's dress was possibly heading in the right direction (though I preferred it minus the bolero, actually), just didn't quite make it there. I wish they didn't all carry on so much about the trauma of working with a full-figured model. This model was nicely proportioned and there was lots you could do for her. Plus, you can get away...maybe...with calling her "voluptuous," but never with "volumptuous"!

It's sad to see Peach go, because she did seem to bring some sort of civility and balance to this crowd of kids. I wonder if her departure will spawn even worse behavior than we've seen so far. I loved that she always knew when she had gone astray design-wise, and I get the sense that she wasn't afraid to learn something about herself and her design process through being on the show. That's inspiring to see in someone of my own age group.

Re: What were you sewing in 1985?

Yeah, do you really want to see my pin-striped faux-silk dolman-sleeved dress with flanges up the bodice and over the shoulders? Oddly, even though I know how dated it is, and hence how very, very wrong many of its design features seem today, I totally remember feeling fantastic and very stylish when I made and wore it.

Re: Project Runway: There IS an "I" in Team

This episode was fascinating to watch, although (perhaps because?) it was a bit of a train wreck on the "Luxe" side. Behavior aside, their collection really wasn't too great. Fundamentally, their plan to distribute the sewing tasks to the people who could best do them wasn't a bad idea, but since there wasn't a strong enough design concept to start with, each piece ended up less than it should have been, and certainly didn't work with the others all that well.

I'm not sure exactly who made each piece, but the little camel blazer looked quite good, and the blouse that I think Michael C. did (open back with straps, work with camel palazzo pants) had that Grace-Kelly-in-Rear-Window surprise effect that worked well. Unfortunately, the obviously badly made pieces (A.J.'s shirtdress--dull design, bad fabric choice; Ivy's entire ensemble; the hideous "grandpa" cardigan shown with the palazzo pants--so unfinished it wasn't even PRESSED along the facing edges??) were glaring, and it was hard to see what was good about the collection. Add to that the strange, unflattering proportions, and such a painful misuse of what were probably very fine fabrics, and it was just sad.

Military and lace sounded like a really terrible idea to me, but the collection ended up quite appealing. Lots of attractive, original detail, generally really good fit, a pleasing assortment of colors, textures, and styles. And it just goes to show you: even though Tim thought Casanova's black lace blouse looked "old," a stunning classic like that is timeless, and can be brought up-to-date without too much trouble. The white pants were brilliant in fit and design, and just the thing to set off the top and make it modern.

As usual, Mondo's look was one of my favorites. Each week he makes something that's completely unlike the other designers' work, that screams "Mondo!" And while there's always a bit of humor, it's neither silly nor obnoxious. He manages to combine dead-serious, rock-solid design with a quirky sense of fun. I'm beginning to rethink my plans for my post-50 style makeover: was going to do all-black, Miyake/Yamamoto/etc. arty/edgy severity, but now I think maybe a Mondo approach might be more amusing!

Re: Project Runway: Hat's Off to You

River Dawn, thanks for the definition of matchy-matchy. I guess I think it's more informative when the judges simply say "it's boring"--picking on the fact that elements "match" is a weird way of saying something is dull. One person's "harmonious" might well be another person's "matchy-matchy," after all, whereas "it's boring" conveys the fact that nothing really captures the viewer's imagination. And I agree that it's a lot harder to tread the fine line between boring and tastefully interesting in clothing than in quilts. That's where accessories come in, for most of us. Use the Piperlime.com (or is it Bluefly? Macy's?) accessories wall thoughtfully!

Re: Project Runway: Hat's Off to You

I completely agreed with the judges in sending Kristen home. Her dress looked really badly made and just seemed to be fashion from nowhere--and I'm pretty open to some weird references! I loved Mondo's crazy look, and while I would not have put a mustache on the model, I totally understood the surrealism involved, and thought it worked well with the spiral hat. Michael D's outfit successfully combined novelty, with the corrugated-cardboard top, with wearability, but I found it strange that the judges were so impressed with his broomstick skirt. Sure, it was a nice bottom for the ensemble, but didn't we all make, or at least wear, broomstick skirts at some point? Are these designers so young they don't remember that?!

Gretchen's outfit was my favorite of all her work, the first one that hasn't looked hackneyed or overly mall-ish to me. She did a fine job of staying with the vibe of the hat and within her own style. I'm starting to feel sorry for her that the editors have been so hard on her, unless she really is as arrogant as they make her out to be.

As for Michael C's dress, I thought it was really pretty, and looked great with the very difficult hat-mask he had to work with. Yeah, it wasn't super-original, but really, since this challenge seems to have been about making a look that was harmonious with, and set off to best effect, a rather striking accessory, he acquitted himself just fine. Of course, you could say the same of Casanova--equally unoriginal, equally tasteful and attractive (I was probably too young to wear that dress the first time around, and too saddle-baggy this time, but I appreciate the classic elegance of it). I guess falling back on black might have taken him out of the running.

And can anyone explain to me when the concept "matchy-matchy" became so hideously abhorrent? I understand that matching too much is dull--that goes without saying--but the scorn with which the phrase is uttered seems out of proportion with the actual crime. I guess it's this season's "dubious taste level." It's all much too subtle for me: Why, for example, was Gretchen's outfit not "matchy-matchy," even though all the colors and textures seem to have been taken directly from the hat, and Kristen's model's blue toenails were "too matchy-matchy," when I don't see any blue elsewhere in the ensemble. I wish the judges were more articulate in their criticism.

Re: Carla's Opera Coat

There's so much to admire in this beautiful opera coat! And although the style isn't one I have much use for in my mundane life, I rather like the drama of it, and knowing that it's intended as the outer wrapping of some even more stupendous ensemble. I hope Carla has someplace grand to go!

Actually, I made a winter coat with a similar--though abbreviated--silhouette last year, and I love it. Bracelet-length, somewhat wide sleeves, with a full shape overall. It's perfect for throwing on over anything, from jeans and a bulky sweater to a nice dress. I just need some really good long leather gloves.

Re: Project Runway: It's a Party!

I thought Sarah's was dreadfully dull, but wish she hadn't been sent home because I liked her calm personality and wanted to see what else she could do. Michael Drummond's (the one shown above as Nicholas D'Aurizio, who was sent home last week) lampshade-cum-Reynold's Wrap disaster was probably the most unflattering thing on the runway.

Gretchen's outfit, to me, was fine, but less original than many of the pieces that slipped under the radar. She simply used party supplies that were, essentially, disposable versions of familiar fabrics, and not in an especially creative way. A fringed skirt and "leather" jacket--so what? I wore outfits like that in the 1990s (though I'm loathe to admit it!!). I'm not a fan of Gretchen as a personality, certainly, but I also don't see anything new in her designs so far.

Valerie's paper napkins and Andy's ribbon-braid were a lot more inventive technically, and produced more interesting garments as well. So I'm glad Andy won, and I also was pleased to see Peach and April help him out at the end. I hope Valerie gets a win soon--she's been so consistently good all along.

Re: Check out the winners of the Duct Tape Prom Contest

April, she used purple, orange, and green, which were gifts from some craft-crazy auntie, I think. But a couple of weeks ago she spied tie-dye duct tape at Michael's and begged to buy some. I encouraged her to wait a bit, since she's doing a lot of knitting and sewing right now, and I'm trying (probably failing) to raise her with some sense of proportion when it comes to pre-stashing materials and supplies. Until she has her own basement or attic or storage space, she can't accrue too much stuff! Or the Barbies and babies and American Girls will have to go.

Re: Check out the winners of the Duct Tape Prom Contest

A few years ago, my daughter (who is now 10) made a colorful duct-tape wallet. Now that she gets a real allowance and has some purchasing power, she's been using her wallet regularly. Every time she takes it out of her purse, she receives a compliment from the salesperson--great motivation for future creativity! I've already pointed out to her that she can win some serious scholarship money with a duct-tape prom outfit!

Re: Project Runway - And Sew it Begins

Some pretty ugly stuff this week, but with 5 hours and a garment that you have no connection with to start probably would be tough for anyone. I thought it funny that Peach ended up making a dress out of fabric that looked a lot like the pants she handed off to Ivy! Her finished dress was legitimately cute, though. I actually didn't agree with Gretchen as the winner, only because I thought the dress was uninventive and rather dull, and the hemline looked dated to me. But it was, at least, a valid, wearable garment in a sea of hot messes.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the season progresses. I have no sympathy whatsoever for Casanova and his pricy pants. What's a designer doing paying that much for trousers with someone else's name on them? He should make his own, like the rest of us. And what are we to make of his toddler-sized necktie?! Does he shop at D&G or BabyGap? On the other hand, they could develop an anime series starring Mondo and I'd watch.

Re: The Wackier Words of Sewing and Fashion

Here's something on ticking:

"cloth covering for mattresses or pillows," 1640s, from tyke (modern tick) with the same meaning (mid-14c.), probably from M.Du. tike, a W.Gmc. borrowing of L. theca "case," from Gk. theke "a case, box, cover, sheath" (see theco-).

Alas, I've lost touch with an old colleague who was a German philologist and could have helped with that one, and likely with others as well.

I always find that Fairchild's raises more questions than it answers, just because there's so much in those books.

Feed dogs: the "feed" part makes sense, as these little things feed the fabric under the presser foot. Here's an old def. of "dog":
"any of various usually simple mechanical devices for holding, gripping, or fastening that consist of a spike, bar, or hook."

Feed dogs maybe not be spikes, but you can see how "bar" or "hook" pertains, even though they're more of a ridged bar.


How about "thimble"? I'd have guessed that it was a word form similar to "handle," with the -le suffix indicating a tool used by or related to the thumb (for thimble) or hand (for handle). But see below:

Due to the thimble's bell shape and the fact it was meant to be worn on the thumb, the original name was thought to be "thumb bell." "Thimble" seems to be a logical progression of "thumb bell," but according to Fiona Ure in her Collector Cafe article, Thymels, "Thimble" comes from the old English word "thymel," which is a finger stall, a material meant to protect an injured finger. So there are two schools of thought to the etymology of the word "thimble."

Yes, we could go on and on with this!

Re: What's your dream sewing project?

I'd like to design (or at least plan) are really chic, versatile wardrobe--all pieces that work together and look good, and can be thrown on without a lot of thought. Talk about biting off more than I can chew, though! And in the past, the few times I've really managed to make two or three items that coordinate, I actually found it a little boring to sew, and ultimately not that exciting to wear. So the planning part is essential, to come up with pieces that don't look like a uniform, or overly matching, yet do form a good core wardrobe.

Re: Share Your Fabric Stash Busting Projects

The last time I moved, I culled my stash and donated quite a lot to the local high school's sewing classes. I had a lot of leftover kiddie fabrics (cute print knits, etc.) that my kids have outgrown. The sewing classes make blankets and pet toys, and can use anything, no matter how ugly or too-cute, and they used scraps that weren't good for sewing as stuffing for the toys. No waste, and my fabric-storage area became much neater. I still have much too much, but at least it's mostly fabric I still want to use for myself!

Re: Get Your Body Scanned for the Perfect Fit

Thanks for the reply, DesignerDiva. I'd love to know how the patterns turn out for you. But I'm afraid the process would be like when I made a custom dress form of my body and discovered that my large backside was accompanied by a saggy tummy that I had conveniently overlooked (through the process of "auto-tummy-suck-in that automatically kicks in when confronted with a full=length mirror). Not to mention dreadful posture. In my case, a body scan might be asking for too much information!!

Re: What does your sewing space look like?

I like the way you think. It's good to ask yourself what would be more "perfect" than what you've got, but also to be happy with what's there and make the best use of it you can. Also, you're lucky to have a reason to keep those guest rooms in shape for visits from the kids and grandkids!

It sounds like for you, a cutting table at a more comfortable height might be a top priority. Oh, and maybe a strong magnet to retrieve the dropped pins!

Re: Get Your Body Scanned for the Perfect Fit

I'm glad to see that this technology is coming back--I recall a few years ago a body-scanning thing that was supposed to produce custom-fit patterns, but it didn't seem to go anywhere. What I wonder is how this works for sewers. Is it possible to obtain a pattern that corresponds to your body scan, or only made-to-measure garments?

Re: Ribbon Braid

This kind of trim would lend itself nicely to home decor, too--around a lampshape, or to embellish a decorative pillow. I admit that I NEVER sew home decor items (making garments is too much fun!), but sometimes I think about it!

As for gum-wrapper braids: I was forbidden to chew gum, so I never learned to make them, but I love the effect. I think I've seen purses woven from wrappers--a very funky reuse/recycle look.

Re: Ribbon Braid

We used to do this with plastic gimp (the stuff you use to make lanyards) in summer camp--but it certainly looks a lot more interesting in ribbon! Thanks for the reminder of this easy, but great-looking, technique.

Re: iPod App Tracks Your Fabric Stash

I'm almost a luddite when it comes to this kind of technology--I've seen too any tweens and teens doing nothing but tapping the surface of tiny electronic gizmos that I can hardly even see. However, this application goes a long way toward making sense of the iPod, iTouch, or even the iPad.

So here's a question from a complete tyro: do all these iWhatevers have built-in cameras, so you can instantly shoot and load photos of your fabric? Or do you have to use a separate camera and upload the digital photos from there?

My current system of stash-tracking involves many plastic storage bins, baggies of swatches, a certain amount of elbow-grease, and my memory. There must be a better way, and this iPod app might be it!

Re: Museum Exhibit: "American Woman" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Thanks so much for announcing these exhibitions. I know I won't get to NYC to see them in person (hope you can go, April!), but I'll definitely enjoy them as much as possible on my laptop screen.

Today, as I recall all the magazine headlines in the grocery store urging me to work on "getting back my bikini body," I'm especially liking that woolen bathing suit. The only problem is that I think wool dissolves in chlorine, so that suit won't do me much good at the local pool!

Re: Cinematic Costume Design Makes for Great Inspiration

I haven't seen that movie since it came out, but now I want to see it again! I never liked the book too much, and the film cast is just strange (kind of good strange, though, for such a group of amoral characters!), but the visuals are unparalleled. The men's costumes, for some reason, are more appealing to me than the women's. I love all those velvets and interesting passementerie and cuffs and so forth.

"To Catch a Thief" has some great costumes--wardrobe, really-- worn by Grace Kelly. Quintessential 1950s gorgeousness! For a 1960s flavor, I love "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort" and "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg," both with Catherine Deneuve looking young and beautiful. Weird operettas, but very chic. "Imitation of Life" (1959--Lana Turner!) also had a terrific wardrobe.

For fantasy-type costumes, I usually like Tim Burton's movies, including the latest "Alice in wonderland."

Re: Meet Threads' Contributing Editor, Mary Ray

I've worked with Mary and she's inspired me in a number of ways.

One: She always looks fantastic! There's always something special in what she's wearing--either a nice embellishment detail, a great color combination, or a very cool pairing of fabric and pattern.

Two: She doesn't cut corners. Her techniques are carefully honed to produce great results.

Three: She makes it look easy. No matter how complex a technique might seem, she explains why you're doing something, so that it's all logical and straightforward. And she believes in flexibility: If something isn't working for you, adjust till it does, and don't worry about it.

Plus, she's just a really nice person who wants nothing more than to enable others to have fun expressing their creativity and personal style.

Re: Project Runway - Season 7 Finale

I must say I think Seth Aaron was my pick for winner. This is not to say I loved all his pieces--some of my least favorite looks were in his collection (the pants with the yellow plaid sides kind of made my skin crawl, or at least made my cellulite shiver!). But he managed to surprise and interest me more than the others.

Mila's collection was quite strong, but mostly not too innovative after seeing her work all season. I'm personally very fond of black, both all-black and b/w, but the effect on the runway isn't as compelling as the garments probably are in real life. That is to say, I didn't get that "I wish I had that!" feeling as I watched Mila's show, but in the end, I'd probably feel great wearing her stuff. I also think her looks would photograph well for print, which is important for commercial success. Hers is a subtler aesthetic that's got an understated sense of luxury; her choice of shadows as an inspiration seemed right on to me.

(By the way, I never thought that Mila being sent out first meant she came in third. I figured it was a production choice made to maximize the tension between Emilio and Seth Aaron. I was actually pleased that they excused her early from that painful last pairing.)

Emilio had a few pieces that were quite nice, but as others have said, not new! Boy, the judges were tough on Mila's supposedly 60s references, but compare a lot of Emilio's colors and silhouettes, and even detailing, to the wardrobing on Mad Men and you start to wonder. But a red turtleneck and black pencil skirt--armbands/belt or not--doesn't feel runway-ready to me. I want more! I do have to give him credit for showing a very different side, though: I complained a previous week about how he designed pretty much only strapless dresses all season, and this time he did some wonderful tailoring. While I didn't think he would come out the winner, he did show a side of his design aesthetic that's definitely commercially viable. But when I can look at a dress and think "Oh, I could replicate that with Simplicity 5122 [hypothetical pattern number only!]" it suggests he's not on the forefront fashion-wise...even if he's got his finger on the pulse of what women do want to wear.

But for beautiful construction, fashion-forward design, signature style, and personal growth as a designer, Seth Aaron really stepped forward.

Re: How did you learn to sew?

So many of our stories are similar--for those of us who began our careers (however shakily) in the 1970s or before. I learned to sew from my mother, who was a dressmaker when I was growing up. There was always something hanging from the closet door, awaiting a client for a fitting. So when I took home-ec in 7th grade, I was looking forward to learning to sew "for real," with patterns, and at full-size (not Barbie-size). I had a sweet teacher, who know my mother well and gave me an A based on my mother's excellent skills, I think. We were supposed to make wrap skirt and wear it to school at least once. I was allowed to do a jumper with a zipper, which I never finished, but I think I made some other skirt on my own so I had something to wear to school.

I'm fascinated to read about the younger generation who didn't have the advantage (if you choose to call it that--I'm not sure all of us considered it such at the time!) of in-school sewing classes, and mothers/grandmothers/aunts who sewed at home. It's inspiring to hear from those of you who have taught yourselves to sew without that support system. Although from what I'm seeing here, many of us, home-ec or not, are ultimately largely self-taught--because really, learning to sew is about diving in, giving yourself challenges, and accepting that there will be misses as well as hits. It's definitely a trial-and-error process, no matter what your background.

Re: Spring Cleaning for Your Fabric Stash

This sounds like you're going to have a wonderful "fabric shop" in your own home--stocked entirely with fabrics you like! One warning, though: be sure to have a brawny friend (or three) around to bring home that Expedit unit. It's quite heavy and large, so a bit of a nuisance to bring in through narrow staircases and hallways. Been there, done that, and wonder how I'll ever get this mammoth thing out of my house!

Re: Project Runway -- Welcome to the Circus

I've been pondering this season's work over the past few days, and went back to review the pieces each of the four finalists has made. What I noticed--which I hadn't really processed so far--is that Emilio has done nothing but dresses, and the majority of them are strapless or with simple straps. There was one dress (ugly pink mother/daughter number) with short sleeves, and the black jacket that went with the "design your own print" dress. That's it. Not a single other actual sleeve. And don't you think women want sleeves?! Ultimately, plenty of nice garments, but very little variety.

We've been increasingly hard on Mila and her color-blocking, but she's designed a lot of garments, many of which are quite OK and wearable. Maybe not runway-exciting, but she probably has some serious commercial potential. People could actually wear her designs in real life.

Seth Aaron has been strong with his tailored looks, and has managed to produce quite a few well-made, signature pieces. You can almost never say his work looks shoddily made or uninspired, even if they lean toward the costumey. He's not too great at dresses--so I guess he's the perfect complement to Emilio.

Jay has gone from wins with frothy little dresses to romantic, billowing gowns, to super-hip, detailed pants and tailored jackets. Always modern, young, and unique.

So, although my initial feeling was that Emilio has probably earned a win, with Seth Aaron a close 2d, I'm beginning to have high hopes for Jay and Mila. In terms of breadth of inspiration, Jay's probably ahead of the pack...but as I mentioned below, I think editing that to a coherent collection might be where he needs to focus.

I can't wait for the studio visits with Tim Gunn. It's so much fun to see the designers in their own environment.

Re: Project Runway -- Welcome to the Circus

I agree--Emilio's dress was hands down the best in show, and the only one that could even pretend not to be mostly costume. Great silhouette and wonderful use of patterns. But his arrogance is wearing very, very thin. When he won the challenge and said "I'm humbled," it made me roll my eyes.

The rest came out looking as I'd have expected. I wish Jay's jacket hadn't been quite so Sgt. Pepper/Michael Jackson (maybe skip the gold braid?)--a bit too literal, and it made the pants, which really were a nice statement in modern design, look ho-hum. That said, his was the only outfit besides Emilio's that I could imagine anyone actually wanting to wear as clothing.

In the Jay vs. Mila tie-breaker, I'm looking forward to seeing how these designers stretch themselves. Mila's looks are often quite good, but in the context of this show, I feel as if she's run out of innovative ideas. Let's hope that as she's left to her own devices she can recharge and come up with some new inspiration. She mentioned last night that she's eager to work without the restrictions of the challenges, and I think that might go in her favor. She's been so extremely directed, and needs to let go a little.

Jay's got real potential and lots of room for growth--I can't wait to see what he does for his collection. I suspect he might have more trouble than Mila in focusing on a unified theme, but on the other hand, his work is quite modern and reflects a youthful sensibility that I've gotten to like. Also, I like the fact that he can go from a frilly cocktail dress (wide hips or not!) to a cool pair of pants and well-tailored jacket. There's something appealing in his willingness to wander a bit...but it could be his downfall.

And of course I'm sad to see Anthony go, because he was such a delightfully amusing presence. However, I'm pleased on his behalf that his dress is on the Marie Claire cover right now, and the b/w one will be worn somewhere by Jessica Alba. That's a great start--beyond what he even said his goals were at the very beginning of the season. Good for him!

Re: Spring Sewing Projects - What Do You Plan to Sew?

I'm a finisher, mostly, unless I can tell I'm on the way to a big disaster. Then I set the thing aside until I can either bear to get rid of it, or have come up with a way to fix it. There seems to be a shelf-life on the back-burnered projects (block that metaphor!): sometimes when I get back to it, it's so unappealing that I don't mind letting it go!

I agree, though, that wanting to wear the finished garment is a huge motivator for me--that's how I got myself to finish my winter coat, when spring was just around the corner. I've gotten to wear it at least a dozen times, and that's enough to have made it worthwhile. And, I did it a seam at a time. Maybe not exactly, but very bit-by-bit: one day the sleeves, the next day the lining and facing, etc. Suddenly one day all I had left to do was the hem and the buttonhole (which was another story of angst and terror, but with a happy ending).

Good luck with your dresses-they look just right for a spring-to-summer transition.

Re: Meet Threads' Contributing Editor, Kenneth D. King

Kenneth is such great fun to be around, but aside from that, he's also rock-solid in his understanding of sewing. I love that he's expert in everything from fitting to making fancy little ornamental details...to constructing gorgeous purses, manipulating fabric, etc. He seems to have tried and mastered just about everything! He's a great contributor to Threads, and I know I'll always learn something new and helpful from his articles.

Re: Project Runway - NY State of Mind

First, much as I love Jay, I have to ask: What?! The not-too-great tank top aside, what was he thinking with those pants? Didn't Ben go home last week with a pair of pants that had nearly the same bikini-thong seam detail? You'd think he'd stay far, far away from that particular design line. Otherwise, though, I get where he was going with the detailed pant idea. It seemed suitably down-town to me.

Mila's work--in black and white, that is--usually has an appeal that I can't overlook, but this is the week when I finally thought "Haven't I seen that before?" It's time for her to do something unexpected--and successful. Even previous designers who had a strong, signature style didn't seem quite so limited. Of course, this might just make Mila perfectly commercial--if so, brava, Mila. And kudos to Mila and Jay for establishing a professional working relationship, even though they admitted to not getting along.

I loved Maya's look, and think I'd have liked Anthony's more if, maybe, Maya hadn't interfered quite so much. As it is, his dress was really nothing special, except for that funky dragon detail. While it's kind of cool, I honestly can't imagine that many women--the judges included--would really buy and wear that. Anthony can do better.

Emilio's design was pretty safe. Good, but safe. And to my eye, not even great: much too much wrinkly crinkly business, which detracted from the interesting use of bold lining color and gold zipper. Seth Aaron's was cute (not how I typically think of Harlem, I admit!), and I'm always impressed by how well-made and nicely fitting his garments are. Even if I don't love the style, they look great on the model.

Amy and Jonathan--a match made in...well, not the Upper East Side! They seemed flummoxed from the get-go on capturing the UES feel, and yet I liked how they tried to get around it. They both probably bit off more than they could chew for this challenge, but I actually though Amy's silhouette was an interesting take on a shirtdress--the short length and leggings brought it up to date in a funky way. Dreadful colors to wear, though. I'm sorry Amy's gone, nonetheless. I enjoyed her.

Jonathan's dress seemed half-finished--probably better if he'd had a few more hours. I can't say I love that mesh-over-nude look, but his cut-away technique was an interesting approach. Had he done the piece in, say, charcoal mesh over slate-blue, it might have read UES a little more clearly.

Despite all my criticism, I think the designers did a great job this week, especially considering the tight deadline and the potential difficulties of working with a partner. They really did seem to focus on the challenge itself, and most of the flaws were the result of being ambitious--and you have to give them credit for that.

Re: Starter Machines and Beginning Sewers

This Janome machine is really cute, and I'm glad to hear that it works well. Like alotofstitches, I bought my daughter a little Barbie machine when she was turning 5, I think, and between us we managed to sew about 9 inches before it stopped stitching properly. It was so loud and jumpy that it scared her--we never used it again! And while that purchase was a bust, it did get her interested in using my machine, a low-end computerized Brother, which is much easier to handle--all push-buttons with pictures, easy-to-load bobbin, etc. Now we fight over who gets to sew! I wonder if it's time for Hello Kitty to save the day.

Re: Project Runway - Earth, Air, Fire, and Water

I, too, was hoping for something a little "warmer" in the fire designs, although I did like Anthony's dress a lot anyway. Amy is a favorite of mine for her willingness to innovate, and I really wanted to see where she could go with her concept, but I'm not sure she quite got where she was hoping. What I found funny was that she referred to the garment as a "dress."

I loved Seth-Aaron's outfit, though his, like others, had what I'd consider a pretty tenuous relationship to the "inspiration element." I'm glad the judges weren't all that literal--I mean, how did Jonathan get from "air" to "uncontrollable laughter"?! I was waiting for an explanation about that, but in the end, his dress really had an airy quality, no matter what he called it.

Credit should be given to Ben, Seth-Aaron, and Mila for making multi-piece outfits, with sleeves. These super-short, one-day challenges practically force the designers to create some version of a strapless dress if they want to have time to add any embellishment, so I applaud the ambition of anyone who managed to execute 2 or more pieces.

There's sometimes an inconsistency in how the judges view these garments--one week a dress will be "perfectly proportioned," and the next week, a very similar silhouette is "too short and too tight." Sometimes they call a designer out on the fit of the garment, other times they let them get away with what we sewers might consider fit murder. Is it good to have a recognizable "point of view" and signature style, or are you going to be called a one-trick pony? I'm glad I'm not up against them!

Re: Meeting the Union Special Chainstitching Machine

I'm interested to learn about these selvage jeans. I recently bought my kid a pair of jeans at Old Navy, that had a couple of selvage details on the belt loops and the coin pocket. I thought it was just a clever decorative device (as it is), but now I wonder if it's a reference to this selvage jeans phenomenon. There's no other selvage on the pants, though, which I guess is what you get for $19.50!

Re: Project Runway - Nuts and Bolts

What I missed was more discussion of the accessories designed by the "safe" designers who were in neither the top nor the bottom three. I couldn't really tell what Amy made, though I thought her dress was adorable and perfect on her model.

Mila's outfit was cute enough, but if that's not costumey, I don't know what is. Maya's was fine--it looked nicely made, and her necklace really was my favorite piece of the whole show, but what's with this stand-up collar/ruffle fetish she has? Does she own only one pattern piece? It seems as if everything she's designed all season has included that element in some form. It's her answer to Mila's color-blocking, I guess.

For the most part, I didn't love any of the hammered metal garments, and sympathized with the other designers who had to work through all the noise involved in creating those pieces. Jonathan's passed with nary a comment, but I think it's one of his most successful pieces all season. Even if the overall silhouette wasn't innovative at all (which was probably a blessing in this case), he developed an interesting art deco surface design that intrigued me.

As for choosing between Jesse and Emilio--I think Emilio's look was far worse, but his body of work throughout the season has been stronger. I actually can't remember one thing that Jesse has designed, so it probably was time for him to go. Emilio's arrogance might trip him up down the line, though. But even if he was forced to limit his look to a bathing suit, due to the shortage of materials, did it have to look like such a mess? The only thing that worked was that his model really did look just like an animated Barbie doll, and that was creepily fascinating.

Three cheers for Isabel Toledo, who worked hard to give each designer the benefit of the doubt.

Re: American Beauty

I want to go!! This sounds wonderful, and even though I'm unlikely to get to NYC anytime soon, I'll definitely request the book as a present at some point.

The Trigere ensemble really caught my eye because it so reminds me of an Easter ensemble my mother made for me when I was about 6 or 7 (a few years after the Trigere original, that is). My outfit wasn't cut in the bias, but it was a blue/white windowpane-check coat and dress combo of similar silhouette. Even then I thought it was incredibly chic (for a little girl!)--a real anti-Polly Flinders look. Thanks, Mom!

Re: Protect Your Handbag Investment

Embarrassingly enough, I recently opened a stored purse that I hadn't used in a long time, and discovered two balls of wonderful mohair yarn that I bought for my sister probably 7 years ago. So I guess a label or two wouldn't hurt me, either!

Re: Protect Your Handbag Investment

Thanks for this great idea. This would make a nice gift, too, for friends who collect handbags. You just have to keep a tape measure in your pocket and measure their bag when they go to the ladies' room!

Instead of stuffing bags with tissue paper, I often use old t-shirts that have been laundered a lot. No acid (which some tissue paper has), and there are always a bunch in various sizes in my house, waiting for suitable recycling. Then when I take the purse out, I'm reminded of that time I donated blood, or did a 5K walk for charity, or whatever.

Re: Project Runway - Week 6: Mini Models Take the Runway

How nice that there wasn't anything truly dreadful this time! It was pretty obvious who's versatile enough to design for a child and who poo-pooed the whole assignment, though. I think if Emilio hadn't had the pink "mom" dress, he'd have been out: his child's dress was uninspired, badly proportioned, and ill-fitting to boot.

I appreciated that Amy realized her two looks would either be loved or hated by the judges, and I was sorry that the judges didn't like them. Although I'd rather she made a skirt than pants with those petals, I really kind of enjoyed the wild colors, crazy textures and edges, and deliberately haphazard look. I know people who would gravitate straight to those clothes.

Coincidentally, I just returned from a long weekend in SFO, where a) I noted that the little girls were exceptionally stylish compared to the suburban kids I know(funky colored trench coats, multiple layers of different prints, etc.), and b) I had a chance encounter with a former design-school classmate of Amy's, running a shop full of amazing cool garments. Putting these together, I can see where Amy might have absorbed the spirit of design-for-kids in a way that some of the others haven't...but that's just post-hoc speculation on my part.

Seth Aaron and Jay were, in my view, justifiably the top two--I loved their work. I have no problem with dark colors for little girls, either. Janeane's stuff was just amateur. My 9-year-old has already sewn (not to mention worn) more complex garments than the red dress she sent down the runway. I don't think Janeane is without talent, but she doesn't seem ready for PR at this point. She always seemed so frazzled, which is exactly how I'd be in her place. I hope she's enjoying getting out of the pressure cooker!

Re: Fashion Films on Netflix

Thanks for this great overview. I've seen a couple of these movies, but hadn't heard of others. Suffice it to say that I have a Netflix window open right next to this one, and have put those on my queue. My spouse won't be happy that I've shifted his submarine and zombie movies down.

For a cinematic fashion fix, I occasionally rewatch "To Catch a Thief" with Edith Head's gorgeous designs on Grace Kelly, and "Funny Face," Head and Givenchy...so inspiring, even though retro.

Re: Project Runway - Week 5: Run for Cover

I agreed with the judges, even though Anthony's wasn't really my favorite garment. Given the very specific requirements of a magazine cover garment, which has to stand out immediately, and that it was meant to be for an April cover (on the stands in March, but must read "SPRING!" right away), Anthony fulfilled the brief best. Cropped at the waist or above, with Heidi's coloring and figure, I think it would work just great, and leave space for jewelry, hairdo, and cover lines. In another life, though, that dress might be better in a deeper, richer color--at least to my taste.

It was surprising to me how few of the designers embraced colors--it was as if they had never seen a newsstand before! Emilio's dress at least "went there" with color, and the shape was a good one for Heidi, but the overall effect was a bit Victoria's Secret on Valentine's Day. All those pale, nude tones and bland bodices were crying out for help.

I really liked Seth Aaron's suit, but not for an April cover and not for a cover-girl like Heidi. Ben's kimono came out so much better than I expected that I was really impressed. Very cool and modern, and just the right level of detail. The bodice of Jesse's dress was interesting but didn't read clearly enough, and the woven (?) detail was perhaps too low to show up on a cover. The rest--just too invisible colorwise, or (in the case of Amy's, which I enjoyed a lot), a little too busy.

I'm beginning to think that the designers are showing battle fatigue--unable to process information or follow specific instructions. At least they can still design and sew though. The garments weren't all bad, but not right for the challenge.

Re: Project Runway - Week 4: Hearts and Flowers

I agreed that Amy's was worthy of winning. Really lovely! By choosing chiffon, she took away the dreaded shine that makes red look tacky (and I'm a big fan of red). I also thought Jay did a great job for his petite model. Maya's was an interesting idea, but ultimately I didn't like it much--I though Ben's pairing of that bronzy-gold with the red was much more successful. His dress was quite beautiful.

Part of what bothered me about Maya's was the fit over the bust. It looked as if the gold swirl was squashing everything down on one side--not as flattering as it could be. A better understructure might have helped?

I loved Jonathan's choice of fabric, and his dress was beautiful from the waist down. But the front bodice didn't do his model any favors. She's narrow and slender and those cutaway armholes made her look scrawny, with her bust resting practically at the waistband. To my eye, the proportion was just off, and I don't think it had to do with her body. The back looked great, though, and the color was wonderful on the model.

Mila's stars: they looked better in the sketch than on the actual dress, but the model did carry if off really well, and overall the silhouette and neckline were kind of terrific on her statuesque figure. (Imagine that gown in 4-ply silk crepe, with the stars incorporated into the dress fabric using Pamela Ptak's "Couture Insertion" technique. Now that would have been amazing!) The Campbell's trim seemed tacky and costumey, and in a "real" garment should be replaced by something more elegant.

I'm carrying on! I guess my impression was that the designers who really expressed an interest in making their specific models look and feel wonderful ended up with the most successful garments. They actually assessed the figures and worked with them, rather than trying to squeeze a natural, normal body into something that would work only on a 6-foot-tall, size 2, 18-year-old. There were too many places where volume wasn't well controlled (Anthony's ghastly vest), proportions didn't work (Jesse's ensemble), and strange bits of stuff were applied here and there (Janeane, Anna, Jesus). All those garments might have been cute on some slouchy teen, but weren't suitable for grown-up women, no matter how lovely and inspiring (as all the models were).

Re: Exotic to Everyday: Brazil's Passion for Fashion

Thanks for this coverage of style in Brazil! It's always fascinating to hear how women in other parts of the world view fashion.

I haven't been traveling anywhere too exciting in a while, alas--but in years past I've lived in Europe, and found fashion trends there eye-opening. In Paris, women did exactly what we're "supposed" to do: bought fewer pieces of nicer quality, had them tailored to fit well, mixed and matched imaginatively, "borrowed" from the guys (fine shirts, cashmere sweaters, scarves and mufflers), wore interesting hosiery, and invested in things like a really good haircut and very nice skin care. Even though the latest fashions were visible everywhere, most women didn't seem to buy into the idea of changing their look completely every season; they seemed to pick and choose what worked best for them. I did have one professor who shopped exclusively at Sonia Rykiel, and she look fantastically high-fashion at all times.

In Amsterdam, things seemed quite different. Overall, fashions were much more casual than in Paris or New York, and when I was there (mid-80s) the overriding color palette was much more somber than in the States at the time--I recall being completely baffled by the pervasive habit of wearing head-to-toe black and brown (together). Hair was worn long and natural, but given the fact that most people travel by bicycle in a very damp climate, this made perfect sense. I was in a student-oriented setting mostly, but didn't see much difference between the student look and the "career" look. Overall, not nearly as inspiring to me as Paris, but I learned a lot about layering to manage weather conditions, reconciling wavy hair and humidity, and riding a bike in a short skirt!

Re: Project Runway - Week 3 - Iconic Inspirations

I guess I'm in the minority in not particularly liking the Maya/Jay gown--in color and form it reminded me too glaringly of...um, tree fungus. Sorry! I can appreciate that it was well-made, however. Among the also-rans that I like were Jesus and Amy's "nude" and black gown and Anne Marie and Emilio's "look for less," which seemed like a slightly updated Claire McCardell dress.

This week I was more sorry than ever that Pamela Ptak was gone. She would have been MARVELOUS in this challenge! With her couture skills and deep knowledge of fashion history, plus her positive, can-do attitude, I think she'd have blown us and the judges away--and treated her partner well at the same time.

I kind of hated to see Ping leave, although I haven't liked her designs after week one. She's entertaining and seems driven by genuine creativity, rather than ego. I guess Anthony is going to be our diva for as long as he lasts. He does come out with expressions that made me laugh! He said up front that pageant-type design is his ambition, though, so I don't now how long he can last. The judges hate anything that smacks of pageantry.

Re: Project Runway Season 7 Opening Night

How much fun is it to be back watching PR in NYC? I liked it so much I'll be watching the rerun tonight. I have a date with my 9-year-old daughter who's a big fan of the show, too (but she can't stay up that late on a school night--it's good to be a grown-up).

I can't wait to see more of the personalities of the designers, as there seem to be an interesting mix this season. The Lifetime website has loads of material on each designer already, so you can study ahead of time!

I loved the winning dress, and really appreciated how the designer added so much interest to a basically not-crazy silhouette with the appliqued strips. There were others I liked almost as much (Ping Wu's was rich and dramatic, and I quite admired Pamela Ptak's pink origami-looking dress). The black top/light skirt look that Janeane made to replace her pleated LBD turned out rather chic and wearable--not necessarily a runway showstopper, but I could see myself wearing that easily. Then there were a few that I didn't much care for. I guess I'm old, though: Seth Aaron's checkered dress didn't do a thing for me--too Daisy Mae-goes-downtown for me (but it appeared to be nicely made, and the individual details were good overall).

Re: What's your advice for Fancy Fabric Sewing?

This is something I learned from Judy Neukam: consider using fine silk thread for construction. I made a wedding gown a couple of years ago (cream silk shantung, lined with habotai, and underlined with silk organza), and used natural white silk thread. I was able to stitch the entire full-length gown, lining and all, with a single bobbin, the thread was so fine. There's no bulk at all in the seams, and the thread fades into the fabric so thoroughly that you really don't need to match the color (though I'd use black thread on a dark fabric). A spool of silk thread is a little more expensive than regular old polyester thread, but it lasts a lot longer and gives fantastic results.

Re: Project Runway Season 6 Finale - Tim has a meltdown

It's taken me forever to get here and read what you all have written! I agree--Carol Hannah's collection was the most appealing to me, too. Feminine, interesting, well-executed...everything you'd want to see. And based on the fact that I would have worn nearly everything in it, I thought it was cohesive. Irina's offered no surprises at all, and the all-black palette made it so hard to see the details that I found it even a little ho-hum on the runway. (It's probably a lot more compelling in real life, though). Althea's? Ugh. Just ugh. Heidi's comment that Althea grasps the "cool" factor from the streets baffled me, but then, I don't really follow what's cool on the streets! Even the best of her pieces required a major overhaul to be wearable at all by an actual person, and the colors were just not there. Overall, the whole show was somewhat disappointing.

Re: Project Runway Episode 12 - Who Goes to NY Fashion Week?

What a challenge! I didn't love any of the results, but I guess Gordana's and Carol Hanna's were the most successful. Irina's was just so off proportionally, and by lining the fabric, she lost the diaphanous quality. For some reason, I found her literal translation of the painting a little annoying--Gordana did a better job reimagining Monet's painting in fabric.

Overall, I was rooting for Althea this time, because she was the only one who tackled the challenge of trying to interpret the architecture of the Getty Center. I worked at the Getty for a few years when it first opened up there on the hilltop, and I never got tired of the architecture. There were wonderful surprises around every corner and curve. (Christopher actually won me over by choosing one of my favorite fountains as his inspiration--but the gorgeous algae was new to me!) She didn't quite "make it work," but I loved that she bit off such an ambitious project.

Personally, I'd have tried to find a way to work with the marvelous fossils you can find throughout the center, embedded in the travertine walls. Subtle, lovely details!

Re: Project Runway Episode 11 - Make it feel good

I love this point in the competition where we really seem to know the designers as people and artists, and we have enough history to evaluate their latest efforts. (Also, I just discovered that my "On Demand" cable offers slightly extended edits of the judging, and that's fun!)

This week, every design had some flaw in my book. Althea's was, to me, a cool silhouette that I'd love to wear, but probably couldn't pull off. Irina's sweater neckline was attractive but the sleeves were overwhelming with the fur, and the dress seemed a little upholstered to me.

Carol Hannah's dress was adorable, for sure, but I ask myself how original it was. More interesting in this case was the role of Tim Gunn's input: first, encouraging her to stay within her comfort zone with a dress, and then in being the one to suggest layering the charmeuse and chiffon. Hmmm...he should really get some credit for the finished design!

Logan and Christopher...what can I say? They're personalities more than designers to me at this point. Dispensable.

Gordana: I've liked her all along. She's done some wonderful, often subtle things in her designs, and she doesn't get crazy or over the top. This week's suit had loads of potential, and probably would have looked terrific if it had been modeled and photographed as in an Eileen Fisher print ad. Not great on the runway, unfortunately, but the harsh criticism seemed unwarranted--I mean, you could wear that, unlike Logan or Christopher's designs. I'd really love to see what she can come up with for an entire collection. She's mature and has a good grasp of the classics, but often adds a twist that takes things to a new level. I feel I could wear what she designs. Also, I enjoy seeing what she wears each week to the runway shows. Of all the designers, Gordana is the one I'd like to know as a person and the one I'd trust to dress me (I'm slightly older than she is).

So, Gordana, good luck in your future as a designer--hope to see your line in stores soon!

Re: Project Runway, Episode 6 Goes to the Movies

I liked Epperson's best, too. Christopher's wasn't terrible, but the proportions were weird: that wide cummerbund needed to be higher--it made even the model look a little stumpy. Nicholas's dress--yeah, it's what the popular girl wants to wear on Halloween so she can be pretty and scary at the same time. No real edge or imagination, I thought. Though I did like the icy hair and make-up.

If I had to choose a movie to go see, based on these costumes, I'd want to see Epperson's--and I"m not even a fan of westerns! He evoked a fascinating, somewhat unexpected woman. His costume such a cool combination of traditional elements all turned sideways, ragged and beautiful at the same time.

As for Nina and Michael...we need them back. If they try to take away our Tim Gunn, there will be a riot!

Re: Project Runway Episode 7 - Blue for You

Even my husband complains that the runway portion is too short, and that they focus too much on the interpersonal drama. I'd much rather see the individual design dilemmas, and how the designers solve their issues, than whatever goes on between them. But mostly I want to see the clothes! Of course, we Threads-ites are pretty self-selecting in our tastes, so I wouldn't be able to say what a "normal" (non sewing-obsessed) person might find interesting in the program.

Re: Project Runway 5th Episode - Make it Work

Thank you for the report! I missed the show last night (though I plan to pick it up some time this weekend) and was having a bit of withdrawal. I can't wait to hear what prevarication Johnny came up with to elicit that bit of perfect Gunn-ery. I agree--the trench coat is nice, but I'm intrigued by how Althea used the print to create the pattern on her dress. It's quite stunning without being a costume.

Re: Project Runway Episode 4 - What's Your Line?

The "smoking skirt suit" didn't seem like a bad concept to me, but the finished look was unimpressive. Every bit of it looked poorly fitted, to the point that it was impossible to see if it started out with good lines at all. I wonder what Nina or Michael would have thought. They tend to see the designs in a broader perspective than the "celebrity-stylist" judges do.

Re: Exhibition: "Chic Chicago" at the Chicago History Museum

There's more and more to like about Chicago, I'm finding, but this stays at the top of my list! Coincidentally, I was going through a vintage issue of Threads today, and I saw the Charles James gown pictured as part of an exhibition held some time in the 1980s, I'm guessing. It's certainly a classic. Now, if I had the closet space for a gown like that, I'd be almost as happy as if I had the gown itself!


Re: Interview with "Dancing With The Stars" Costume Designer

April, I loved this interview! I learned so much from it--it must have been great to talk with Randall. Now wouldn't it be fun to go visit the studio and see it all happen?