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Runway Sewn Your Way: Becky Fulgoni’s Flowing Tunic and Tailored Vest

A designer's feminine, flowy looks inspire a vest-and-tunic combo
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My interest in Isabel Marant’s designs started a few years ago with a Pinterest search. I can’t remember what I was looking for, but the criteria I entered pulled up several pictures of Isabel Marant runway shows. They surprised me because Marant’s lacy, frilly garments are nothing like the more minimalist, tailored garments I tend to make. Still, they intrigued me. They are what eventually led me to make a flowing tunic and tailored vest for the Runway Sewn Your Way Challenge.

Drawn to Isabel Marant designs

At first glance, I thought Marant’s designs were over-the-top feminine, with ruffles and layers and so much lace.

Model on runway wearing white lace tunic by Isabel Marant
This tunic, from French designer Isabel Marant’s Spring/Summer 2020 Collection, is typical of her creations made with generous amounts of lace and ruffles.

 

White lace and ruffled dress modeled on the runway inspired creation of a flowing tunic and tailored vest
Marant paired a delicate, lace-embellished and ruffled minidress with a substantial belt and slouchy knee-high boots in her Spring/Summer 2020 Collection.

But there was something about her use of those elements that kept them from being fairytale fodder. How did she do it? Her creations definitely piqued my design sensibility.

On closer examination, I realized Marant’s clothing has an undercurrent of strength. It’s an almost masculine aura that creates a visual tension with the overload of traditionally feminine details. She mixes denim and tweed and raw edges with lighter-than-air silks and cotton lawn and lace. Her models wear wide leather belts and thigh-high boots with baby-doll dresses and miniskirts layered with ruffles. Somehow, she keeps all of these unexpected combinations from wandering off into costume territory.

Marant’s Fall 2015 Collection showed a full-sleeved denim minidress paired with a leather belt and high boots.

 

Model wears a gray sweatshirt and white ruffled miniskirt
Raw-edge details are part of Marant designs, including this top from her 2014 Resort Collection, as shown on Percy Mode.

Marant’s designs remind me of a way-too-sweet dessert that is brought back from the cloying edge with a hint of sea salt or lemon juice. The volumes of ruffles and lace are corralled with a leather belt or controlled under a strong, tailored shoulder line.

Borrowing and adapting

How could I capture the exuberance of a Marant garment and still create something that I would be comfortable wearing in my conservative Midwestern community? That was the challenge in selecting Isabel Marant as my inspiration for this project.

The garments I eventually created incorporate many elements that define an Isabel Marant design. But I think I also captured my own design preferences that let my style come through. Here are some of the ideas found in a Marant collection and how I used and interpreted them to create my garments.

The silhouette

A garment’s outline is the first thing you are aware of, and I stuck close to the design lines of my inspiration photo. The long tunic with a short, fitted vest is a combination Marant uses often in her collections.

Shoulder emphasis

Marant often creates impact in her designs with exaggerated shoulder details.  She uses pleats and ruffles and extended seams to emphasize the shoulder lines of her garments.

Marant's designs often focus on the shoulder line
A textured sweater with shoulder emphasis was part of Marant’s Fall 2020 Collection.

I have always had “exaggerated” shoulders, so it was fun to let them shine in this project. I chose the Fit For Art Tabula Rasa Jacket pattern for my tunic because of the way the shoulder is drafted. I have used this pattern often and love the way it makes a feature of my broad shoulders. I added a raw-edge “piping” in the seam that nods to the details that Marant uses in her shoulder seams.

Close-up of shoulder of flowing tunic and tailored vest fagoting stitches

Ruffles and layers

Marant’s use of these elements creates a lot of drama in her garments, which is perfect for the runway. But they needed to be toned down for my interpretation. The tunic’s side panels are gathered into the underarm seam to add some dramatic volume.

The front and back panels are tiered layers of the rayon challis with self-fringed edges to define the layers visually.

At left, tiers of ruffles stand out in this dress from Marant’s Spring 2009 Collection. At right, layers of rayon challis with self-fringed edges offer a subtler interpretation.

Lace

My original plan was to use lots and lots of lace. It seemed obvious that lace would define a Marant design. I collected piles of the stuff.

Laces piled on a gridded cutting mat as inspiration for flowing tunic and tailored vest

But the more I tried, the more I realized simply hinting at lace was much more my style.

To give my ensemble a lacy feeling without using literal lace edges, I used fagoting stitches on the vest. To find out how to create fagoting stitches, see my Runway Sewn Your Way technique post.

I also used openwork and raw edges on the tunic.

Statement sleeves

I added a boho shape and created the open checkerboard look to make the sleeves a feature of my design. (Find out how to create a similar interlocking checkboard edge here.)

Checkerboard cut-out sleeve with gathered sleeve cuff on white flowing tunic

 

The loose cuff with layers of fringed edges and a pearl cotton cord tie also give a boho look to the garment.Checkerboard cut-out design on full sleeve of flowing tunic, which is gathered by white cord

Masculine undercurrent

The tailored, fitted shape of the vest—and even the construction technique—are menswear elements. This garment was the most comfortable part of the design for me. Marant incorporates these elements in her use of materials (leather and wool), in her details (suspenders, vests, belts, boots), and in the ubiquitous broad shoulders of her designs.

Isabel Marant design inspired Becky Fulgoni to create a flowing tunic and tailored vest
Marant gave the delicate blouse broad shoulders in this shorts ensemble from her Spring/Summer 2021 Collection, while adding hefty boots, suspenders, and a belt.

 

Surprising inspiration, surprising creation

When I started this project, I was sure that I was going to be ankle-deep in lace. I thought lace would be the answer to every design question along the way. In the end, my interpretation of Marant’s designs was sans lace. I love it when a project surprises me, and this one was full of surprises. It turned out  differently from what I first imagined—kind of in the same way that Marant’s designs surprised me when I first saw them.

This short clip shows how the layered tunic and vest look on me.

I enjoyed seeing a project through different eyes. It challenged my creativity and pushed me to understand my own design ethos on a new level. If you decide to take up the Runway Sewn Your Way Challenge, don’t just make a copy, let the designer you choose get into your head, let the project wander, and make U-turns if necessary. Finally, be true to yourself and have fun.

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