Gina Clark Style
Tailor Made

There are a few things my mother taught me growing up.

1. It’s important to look put together-even if you’re not feeling well. I’ve re-worded that slightly. Her version goes more like: It’s important to look clean and put together.

I’ve always had a thing about dreadlocks,

boys with greasy looking pompadours,

tattoos,

and have been known to go at least a month without a shower and even longer without clean clothes. I’m better about those last 2 but still wish I had dreads. Damn this beautiful silky Korean/Mexican hair!

2. Mascara and lipstick-absolutely!

3. Blazers-the completer. A blazer is essential. She bought me my first one and it was lovely. OK-I bought plenty of over sized mens blazers at the thrift store but she bought me my first beautifully tailored womens blazer. It was black wool with leather panels and a zip closure. I wore the hell out of that thing.

So it should be no surprise to hear that I have always wanted to learn how to make my own with all the bells and whistles. I’ve finally started one and it has already proven to be a very long process. On top of the usual pattern adjustments I have cut the pieces for the shell, the lining, the underlining, and the pieces from hair canvas for the front. After that I marked with chalk all the places that need a running stitch. Here’s a sample of where I am so far-

I know the fabric isn’t very exciting. I always go with something simple when I’m learning something new like this. I have thought about using this as practice and buying something more fun to use as the shell. We’ll see.

It do not believe I will ever be as good as Alexandre Plokhov

who makes clothing so beautifully it literally brings tears to my eyes.

Or like David Neville and Marcis Wainwright of Rag and Bone.

I was lucky enough to find a Rag and Bone trench coat like the one below at the thrift store for $15.

Mine has a subtle plaid print with no sheen. When I wear it I feel strong, elegant, and very put together.

A perfectly tailored piece not only feels right when you put it on it also feels right in your hands. You know what I mean? Do you have something like that in your closet?

I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Making a blazer is my #1 goal for 2012. Maybe I’ll have enough time to throw in a pair of matching pants with pleats and tapered legs with cuffs and a button down and bow tie.

I can see it now!

My Handiwork

As promised-here is a picture of the cheongsam.

I couldn’t get it on a mannequin. I didn’t even ask. She was about to meet with a client so she let me use one of the rooms to hang it. The back is nothing special so there’s no picture of that. I asked her to send me pictures from the wedding so I may post one more with an actual person in it. What do you think?

Sewing Challenge and Some Updates

Update number 1: I finished the Cheongsam! 99% of it anyway-I still have to sew on the hooks and eyes and the frog closure-which I need to buy. This leaves me very tired this morning because I stayed up all night stressing about whether or not it’s going to fit. I honestly do not want to have to alter it. The silk brocade frays very easily and I’m afraid if I overwork it I’ll have nothing left! I know what you’re thinking-“buy some Fray Check already and stop your whining.” No-I will not buy Fray Check. This dress needs to go home. It’s lived here long enough. I’ll post pictures later today. I’m dropping it off at Macy’s and I’m going to try and talk my way into getting it on a mannequin. It probably won’t happen but it never hurts to ask.

Now that that’s behind me (for now) I have a bit of a dilemma. The Sew Weekly challenge for this week is collars.

I’ve made a few pieces with collars and I have a nice little vintage pattern I’m considering for the challenge (I can’t show you that-it’s more fun if it’s a surprise-though I may not use it). The dilemma is that I want to make pants right now.

So what’s the problem? Make the piece for Sew Weekly and move on right? No. The thing is, it takes me a long time to sew. More time than I think it will. Somehow I forget that I am a woman who is married, has a part time job, is raising 2 kids and running a home. Did I mention I have friends who like to see me from time to time? And young women to mentor and…

At this point I will not skip a challenge. I’ve been in it since day 1 and skipping now would just be sad. It would make me sad anyway. I don’t even have the fabric yet.

Wow. What is wrong with me. Suck it up! Seriously! There are much bigger problems out there. I can’t believe I am wasting your time like this. “I have too many beautiful things to create! Why is life so hard?” Please-I need you to send me a slap somehow or maybe throw some water on my face. That cup of coffee you have in your hand will do just fine.

OK-that’s better. Let’s get on with update number 2.

Update number 2: I went online to order those beautiful shoes in blue and they were all out. They only have them in taupe. That’s what I get for overthinking it. Lesson learned. I will order them in taupe and love them anyway. They’re pretty cool in any color.

I feel like I’ve tortured you this morning and I’m sorry. As a present I will leave you with this trailer-

http://mubi.com/films/being-bazaar

Time for a Change?

I have to decided to buy a brand new pair of shoes. This is not something that happens often. I buy mostly second hand-even shoes. Sorry if that grosses some of you out. Some women don’t really wear their shoes. You know what I mean? Sometimes a woman has lots of shoes and she may wear some only for a season before she decides to get rid of them. Then I pick them up and love them for a time and then move them on etc, etc. Ah-the circle of life…for a shoe. Only they can’t speak and pass on all they’ve learned along the way. Oh the stories they would tell!

When it comes to buying shoes I want the most bang for my buck. I want something that will go with most things so I can wear them a lot. Every once in a while I stray from my rule of practicality for something I think is very special. Like these Mizz Moo two toned oxford shoes.

I could have gone with black (which was way more practical) but these were just too beautiful to pass up. I do wear them and they really take a simple look to the next level and I’m all about that.

I have decided to buy a pair of these Betsey Johnson studded suede pumps.

I love the blue pair but think the black or taupe would be more practical. I really like those too but can only buy one pair. What to do? Any suggestions?

Is it time for me to change my rule of practicality and instead invest in pieces that really excite me? Sounds like the answer is yes. Angi did mention the whole blue suede shoe thing. An Elvis paraphernalia fan should have a pair of blue suede shoes….

My (very short) Life as a Rock ‘n’ Roll Model

Last week my husband was out of town so he couldn’t take my photos for Sew Weekly. I managed to get the help of a new friend, Monika Labbe, who is a very gifted photographer. I’ve worked with a few photographers and they all have a different style. It’s interesting because even though photography is sometimes done out in the open where everyone can see, the magic still happens in the eyes and mind of the artist. I don’t see what they see and it is so clear once I get that first glimpse of the photos. Moinika doesn’t just do wedding photos. She does commercial work as well and has even had her work on Oprah. She did me a huge favor taking these and I am very grateful.

This is the wig I dyed. I think it looks really great and it takes the look to a place my own hair could not have. That’s what I love about wigs-they help tell the story. I need to condition it though. Right now it feels like straw. This is also the dress I made for the “Yellow Challenge” back at Sew Weekly. If you’re interested in reading that post click here.

I love all the photos and would love to share them all but that would be a little much right? So, I’ll share one more-

I can’t wait till it gets a bit cooler so I can wear this dress out and about. I think I’ll have to leave the hair at home. Well, maybe.

Reaching for Anna Piaggi

Anna Piaggi is gone and we can never get her back. She was very eccentric. That’s what I loved about her and other women like Iris Apfel.

I was out window shopping with one of my girls last week in the city. We were at Akira and I was admiring all the over the top jewelry. I have a weakness for over the top jewelry. I turned to my girl and told her that my goal as I age was to eventually become one of those eccentric old ladies. I’m not exactly sure what my version will look like but I hope I feel as free as they look like they do.

As I sew and go through the (sometimes complicated) process of dressing myself each day I hope to grow and break through the barriers that sometimes keep me from expressing myself completely. It’s all fear.

There is growth and that’s very encouraging. Anna Piaggi set the bar for me and I hope to have a lot of fun reaching for it.

Breaking a Rule

Many many months ago I was asked by a business contact if I would consider making a dress for her daughter for her wedding. Not her wedding dress or the dress for the reception, she wanted me to make a cheongsam.

Her daughter is half Chinese and would like a cheongsam to wear for a small ceremony after the wedding.

I sew for creative expression and for fun. As a rule I do not sew for others. Too stressful. I know I’m not perfect and still have a lot to learn and I can live with that. It’s different when you’re making something for someone else. What if they can’t live with that?

This is a picture of the dress she wanted.

The woman who made the dress lives in Canada and wanted $450 for it. I e-mailed back and forth with her daughter for a while trying to make it clear that I was not a professional-this is not what I do for a living. She seemed OK with all of that so I decided to give a it a go. At our final fitting for the muslin she said she did not know that I do not do this for a living. She thought I was a professional. I know I made it very clear so I just won’t go there.

I decided to use Vogue 8633. It was the closest I could find to the original design.

She is petite so I had to get rid of the band around the middle so it wouldn’t cut her body up so much. She wants piping around the sleeve openings and the neck and instead of a back vent she wants side vents. She lives in Indiana so I had her take every measurement possible and send it to me. I enrolled in a sewing class and had my instructor, the lovely Veronica Brackett, help me adjust the pattern for her size (which turned out to be simple because her back length is not petite) and to make the adjustments to the waist because I was not using the band.

I did not use the darts in front because they didn’t line up with the darts on the skirt so I made the muslin up minus the front darts and then pinned them in at the fitting.

I couldn’t find good piping and now I’m wondering if I should have driven all over town using time I did not have to find it. Here’s what the bodice looks like so far.

She wanted me to use the black brocade I used for the muslin as the lining so you can’t see the piping very well here. It’s not satiny or very thick. I hope she’s OK with it. She also wants a frog closure at the top but now that the bodice is made i see that the right and left sides are not supposed to meet in the middle.

Say a little prayer that it all works out. I’ll post pictures when I finish the dress and let you know if this story ends well.

Music Inspiration for Sew Weekly? Hmmm…..

As I have been participating in Sew Weekly I have realized that I’m just not into much besides clothing and fashion. I don’t even read many blogs. I was clueless with the movie challenge, I don’t watch the Olympics, and now there’s the music challenge. I listen to music but I don’t invest in it much. It’s not my thing, you know? It’s been hard trying to find the right inspiration. I’ve always wanted to copy the image from Hole’s album “Live Through This”

I don’t see the need for a formal dress in my wardrobe at this moment and I’m not fond of Courtney Love.

There’s also Amy Winehouse-


Her story is just too heartbreaking. It’s hard to get inspired by something so tragic but yet I’m still considering her.

I thought about Debbie Harry-

I may try her. It seems too similar to what I did for the yellow challenge so….

I don’t want to go with one of the guys because that’s what I always do. I honestly thought about using Eddie from Iron Maiden as an inspiration.

If you can see past the creepy you can imagine a cute little bandage dress. I may still go this way too.

It’s up in the air at this point. Maybe I’ll end up using them all. We’ll see.

Treasures

This is a vintage sequined Pierre Cardin top I bought for a steal at a consignment store sale. She sits there quietly in my closet, never complaining that I don’t take her out for the fun I promised her so long ago. Soon-my love-soon.

Check it Out!

A couple of months back I made a top out of sports mesh. I’m going to add a picture here but I want to say first that I made the pants for the ‘pink’ challenge for Sew Weekly and while I had fun wearing them, I would never wear them again. Looking back it’s one of those, “what was I thinking” moments. Anyway, here’s the picture-

And this is the back which is my favorite part.

OK-try to ignore my stripey bottom and focus more on the top.

The reason I’m sharing this is because I opened up The Sartorialist’s blog today and saw this-

  • "This, to me, looks like what would happen if Dior outfitted Wall Street traders.  I’d love to see practical, sportswear materials continue to work their way into classic sartorial suiting.  It could really shake up a very staid, boring segment of menswear.I wonder what the Wall Street trading pit would look like if dressed by Nike.  Sounds like a great editorial for Fantastic Man. I think this also proves the idea that men will wear anything as long as other men are wearing it too."
  •                                                              Scott Schuman-The Sartorialist

Pretty cool right? I haven’t worn the top again because I wanted to add cuffs and a pocket. It’s been sitting there in my bin for months. This may just motivate me to pull it out so I can wear it. We’ll see. I’ll be sure and share it with you if I do.

Ankara

My best friend Angi just sent me a bag full of beautiful Ankara fabric. I was so excited I decided to make something right away.

The first thing I made was these simple shorts using McCall’s 6291. The print hides the front pleats and side pockets. They have an elastic waist and I added a drawstring. It just needed a little something more. I left off the patch pockets and the elastic around the bottom. I didn’t want to mess with the print too much. The next time I use this pattern I’ll add darts in back for a little more shaping. This picture makes it look like the shorts have accordion pleats. It’s just the print-nice effect though.

After I finished the shorts I got to work on this blouse-

I used McCall’s 6036 and added about 2 inches to the bottom. I made a line in from the bottom of the armscye to the outside edge of the neck to create this shape. Instead of following the neckline I just cut at a 90 degree angle from the center front.

I did the same in back and added about an inch and a half to the width so I could cut it in half and add this separating zipper. I rounded the bottom edges out so it flowed better. To attach the front to the back I used a drawstring from a skirt that came in the bag. I cut 2-3 inch pieces and sewed the ends to each side.

The pattern I used is a t-shirt pattern so if you try to make a blouse out of it with fabric that has no stretch make a muslin first to get the fit right. I did not add darts but you may need to if you’re curvier than I am.

I had to take this picture myself. Hey-at least I got my whole body in there!

Dyeing My Wig

For this week’s Sew Weekly challenge I have decided to wear my bob wig (again) for the pictures. I was inspired by this shoot with model Karly Kloss-

My wig will not look like this-remember I said I was inspired-but I did want the color to be darker. I consulted You Tube and found a few tutorials on dyeing wigs (I won’t add links-they’re pretty easy to find) and got to work gathering my materials. Here are the things I needed:

Isopropyl alcohol

Bottle of black ink

Spray bottle

Gloves

Styrofoam wig head

An old towel and some pins to keep the wig in place

*This is where I bum you out a little. I didn’t take any pictures of the process for you since it didn’t occur to me that this would be blog worthy. I’m learning so be patient with me.

My wig is made of plastic so I can’t use regular hair dye to do the job. Honestly, this way is a lot more fun. It’s like art. Here’s a picture of it now-

I know what you’re thinking, “Lola’s looking pretty stunning with her new do.” That’s what I was thinking too. She also looks quite happy. Doesn’t she?

After you mix the solution and spray it onto the wig (preferably outside using an old towel and wearing your less than perfect duds) you’re supposed to let it dry then rinse it with cold water. I didn’t rinse it long enough so as I was styling it for the photo shoot I kept getting dye all over my fingers. It washed right off so it was cool.

Well I hope this whets your appetite a little for my upcoming post on Sew Weekly. If not here’s a teaser-

Alien Fun for the Sew Weekly Challenge

I’m going to be honest with you-there is only one UFO (unfinished object) in my stash and I’m still not ready to pull it out. So I decided to let myself be inspired by the other meaning of UFO  and set my sights beyond this world to a galaxy far, far away. After looking through some images online I picked two features to highlight in my projects. One is silver. I noticed a lot of it-especially in the older TV shows like the British TV series UFO and Mork and Mindy. The second is the strong shoulder or shoulder detail-usually created by their uniform.

Like many of you it’s important to me that the clothes I make are things I would actually wear. So it took me a while to decide what to make. I finally settled on a pair of denim ankle pants and a T. So here are the facts:

Patterns: Butterick B5682 style A and B5562 style B

Fabric: 2 1/4 yds. silver coated french denim $5.99/yd. and 1 5/8 yds. white stretch jersey $3.99/yd.

Notions: 7in. zipper $1.90, 3 buttons $3.00, and silver thread $2.70

Final Price: about $30

Wear Again?: Yes-I wore the pants to church this morning and I plan to wear the outfit with my vintage Gucci blazer to The Working Wardrobe book launch party at the end of the month.

I love the this outfit! I did have some trouble with the zipper in the pants. I like to use these big chunky plastic zippers which are usually not a problem. With this pattern it was problem (more on that in a bit). After completing construction on the front and back of the pants I stitched them together using long stitches so that I could get the fit right. I wanted them to fit like a glove and since the denim had a stretch to it I knew I could bring them in nice and snug without worrying about being able to bend. After taking them in along the legs and upper back inseam I resewed them and over locked all the seams. Next time I use this pattern I’ll add an inch or two to the length since the length was right where I wanted it to be before I hemmed them. I decided to finish the raw edges and bring them up only 1/4 of an inch. After adding the buttonhole and button I was excited to try them on. Once they were on I saw that the zipper head was too big and popped out the side. I tried sewing a hook and eye to help keep it closed but it looked terrible so I took the zipper out and made it a buttonfly. I think it looks pretty good.

I made some changes to the top. I decided to make pleats along the shoulder instead of gathering the fabric. I also decided to omit the elastic all together. There is a strip along the top of the sleeve running down the middle and then 2 strips on the bottom of the sleeves. I liked the extra long sleeve the way it was. I brought the sides in a bit and made the sleeves narrower too.

I’d like to try a version of these pants with a lower waist. Maybe in a future challenge.

For the pictures I am wearing my bob wig and, though you can’t really see it, I drew in eyebrows like Spock. I’m standing in front of the Observatory at Northwestern University. They’re only open to the public on Friday nights and I didn’t finish until Saturday so we went for the next best thing.

Wish I could take you all to the party with me!

"A Day in the Life of Evanston"

I was recently given the honor of having one of my photographs selected to appear in a book that showcases life in Evanston through the seasons. You can read the article here as well as view the pictures. Mine is the one of the two young women with their faces decked out for the Northwestern football game.

http://www.cityofevanston.org/news/2012/02/day-in-the-life-of-evanston-a-photo-story-photo-album-now-on-sale/

It’s all in the details.

It’s all in the details.