Runway Sewn Your Way: Becky Fulgoni’s Flowing Tunic and Tailored VestA designer's feminine, flowy looks inspire a vest-and-tunic combo
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.