A 90s nostalgia moment - The Evie Skirt

Oh the 90s.

Back with a vengeance and causing me so many confused feelings.

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I was born right at the end of 1974 (I know I’m bloody ancient) so technically I’m an 80s kid, but my later teens and coming of age was in the 90s and that is most certainly the decade that had the most impact on who I have become as a person. I am a true member of Generation X. Angst, naval gazing, fiercely independent and authority shy and that feeling of ‘not being seen’ and all. Or maybe the latter is just a universal teen thing.

I left school in 93, graduated from uni in 97 and in those years developed a deep and unrelenting love of fashion. Well, I say fashion, but it was more anti-fashion. I definitely became very aware at around age 14 that a huge part of my self expression could be through my clothes. For a relatively shy, anxious and introverted person, I was pretty bold in my clothing choices and found this the easiest way to express who I was to the rest of the world. I suppose I still do.

I’d dig up pics, but thankfully they’re all in a loft in Hertfordshire.

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I spent a lot of time in thrift stores and army surplus stores. I wore DMs and combat boots, lived in cargo pants or floor length skirts (intermixed occasionally with mini mini skirts) and tiny tees and permanently had my lower belly on display.

And I’m glad about that as it was a bloody fantastic lower belly. The glory of hindsight.

I’m also glad that I didn’t embrace tie-dye or those tiny mirrors on clothing.

My style was definitely influenced by my musical taste but that was very contradictory. I listened to New Model Army and the Levellers (erm) but also the Pixies and Nirvana and Blur and everything that came out of 90s Manchester and to this day remain a massive Stone Roses fan. I also spent a huge amount of time at University at a variety of dubious dance clubs - (Jungle anyone?) - it was all very disjointed.

Anyway the baring of the lower belly transcended everything and was generally achieved via crop tops and very low slung trousers and skirts. Always accompanied by the DMs.

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, so excuse me if I’m repeating myself and / or boring you.

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So the revival of some of the major aspects of 90s fashion makes me feel totally discombobulated.

For a start, how can I be so old that my defining fashion era has come around again?

Then there’s the fact that these things aren’t anti-fashion any more, they’re mainstream fashion and that annoys me - there is definitely some judgmental, old person, you don’t know what you’re wearing vibes going on there. Which I’m not that sorry about. Sorry.

And then of course there’s all the memories that it brings back and the regrets and the what ifs and the nostalgia and the bizarre realisation that I won’t live that part of my life again. I know that sounds obvious but I find it tricky to get my head around the fact that those parts of my life are over and my memories of them will only continue to fade. So yeah, that’s sad.

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Anyway after that judgey, meandering, rumination, let’s get down to the resurgence of a specific item of 90s clothing - the bias cut skirt or dress. As a hippy person (and I mean physical attributes not flower wearing), I tended to steer well clear of these, even though they would often have fallen into my wear-the-longest-skirt-possible tendencies, because they were always so badly made and inappropriate for my long proportions, that they just bunched around my hips and made me even more self-conscious about them than I already was.

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Yet when Tessuti released the Evie skirt pattern last year, accompanied by images of the Tessuti girls and their amazing midriffs courtesy of the low slung skirt and crop top situation, my nostalgia got the better of me and I decided to jump on that Evie train. I felt comfort in the fact that Tessuti’s patterns are always beautifully drafted, I could elongate and grade out where necessary and the skirt, whilst on the bias, is not dead straight; it slightly flares out from the hip down which gives a hippy girl a fighting chance.

I was looking to emulate their version exactly in the sunshine yellow satin, but then found this leopard print rayon voile on Blackbird Fabrics website and well … it is so so soft, so opaque and so drapey. And leopard print. Gorgeous stuff.

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It was a cinch to make. I’m usually pretty good about using the stay paper stuff that Tessuti always recommend for keeping armholes and in this case waistlines from stretching out, but I couldn’t find any. And this is despite the fact that lovely Colette gave me a heap when I was in Sydney last year. So I just stay-stitched instead and that was a mistake as the waist did stretch a bit and as such it is veeeerrry low on my hips. And two kids and twenty years later my midriff is not what it was. Sob.

It’s such a simple pattern and the nature of bias means that it does cling to the curves so there’s little to alter in terms of adjusting darts etc - cos there are none, dummy. *Eye roll at myself*

I added two inches to the length and graded from a 12 at the waist to a 14 over the hips and down to the hem. And it’s pretty good!

I actually meant to make this for the #sewfrosting challenge last November, but in typical me fashion finished it mid-December. I did wear it glammed up to a Christmas party but I think I prefer it worn like this with sneakers and a sweater. A move away from 90s styling. And that is OK.

I’m pretty sure I don’t need more bias skirts, but it is a lovely pattern, and I feel fab wearing it, so I’d highly recommend - just use the stay stuff that Tessuti instruct - it will make a difference.

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Oh, and just because this is a very self-indulgent soliloquy to all that is the 90s I thought I’d share this thing posted by a friend on Facebook the other day (yeah still haven’t bitten the deleting account bullet). It listed the dates that define the boundaries of each generation of the last 100 years. It was a screen grab from a TV news item:

The Silent Generation: 1928 - 1945

Baby Boomers: 1946 - 1964

Millennials: 1987 - 1996

Post-Millennials: 1997 - present.

Umm - something missing right?

It was accompanied by the caption “This is the most Gen X thing that’s ever happened”.

Isn’t it just.

See you soon x

Sewing with butterflies' wings

This dress is one giant step out of my comfort zone. Huge that step, huge. I don't wear chiffon or sheer fabrics really and I certainly don't sew with them. "Why would one create that headache for themselves," generally being my stance on chiffon related matters. But I'm told it's very good to challenge oneself and I understand it's also good to see others creating such wondrous things that your envy and FOMO forces you to suck it up and throw your hat in the ring too. (Debbie and Ellen have a lot to answer for.)

So I did. And this is the result.

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Lets talk fabric first. Because that's what we all really care about, right?

This dreamy, super wafty, light as fairies' wings (again to quote Debbie) is a Liberty Crinkle Silk Chiffon from the collection on The Fabric Store's website. They have a huge selection of Liberty fabric, a lot of which isn't really me, but this had such a subtle, beautifully-coloured wildflower print and its softness and floatiness was really all it took to turn me. So it arrived in all its gorgeous butterfly-like gauzy, delicate softness (and wideness) and then I got the fear and let it sit and stew for a really long time, as the thought of cutting it was too terrifying.

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And also, I had pattern dilemma. I fully intended to use a Stoff & Stil pattern I've had hanging around for a while. It's a simple spaghetti strap sundress which is the same front and back and has a lining and top layer, the latter of which is gathered into the neckline of the lining and then has a ruffle that is gathered into the upper part of the dress. The pattern doesn't seem to be on their website anymore, but this is similar.

I've never worked with anything like a Stoff & Stil pattern before. You choose your size when ordering and when the pattern arrives its made of a lightweight fabric that I can't name. It has notches cut into it where required and all the pieces are full width, not on the fold. The instructions are in a whole bunch of different languages and whilst not illustrated were perfectly clear. They have a large selection of patterns to choose from, but it seems they don't keep them around for too long.

Anyway, back to the epic procrastinating ...

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My dilemma was how to make the most of the movement of the silk. The lining that comes with the pattern is a fairly full A-line shape and as Rina, who responded to my pleading about how to line it, said, the chiffon would get sucked into the folds of the fabric underneath - especially if it was the voile I originally intended to line it with - and lose all its ethereal drama.

I decided that silk would be needed to line it as the two would slip and slide off each other, so I headed to Mood and found an ivory silk crepe de chine that works perfectly colour wise. Then I decided that the lining needed to be pretty form fitting, and that meant bias. And THAT meant the Sadie Slip Dress from Tessuti. So I printed off Sadie and traced the neckline of the Stoff & Stil pattern onto her and that was my pattern dilemma solved.

Still, however, couldn't bring myself to get out the shears. 

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And then I was on the subway and listening to the Love to Sew podcast and specifically the one about levelling up your sewing and how one of the ways to do that was to tackle trickier fabrics. And I thought; I'm a competent sewer, I've sewn with tricky slippery fabrics before, what's the worst that can happen.

Cue quick flashback to being 19 and sewing a lined deep red bias cut chiffon spaghetti strap dress for my first year university ball and getting myself in such a state with it I had to enlist my mum to finish it. But I was totally feeling Caroline and Helen's words so I got home, laid out the butterflies' wings and went to it.

I have no real guidance on how to work with super lightweight fabrics, as my cutting wasn't very accurate. All I would say is choose a pattern that is forgiving; don't cut on the fold; placing the fabric directly on the carpet allows some friction so it doesn't move too much; and use weights as well as fine fine pins, again so that it doesn't move too much.

The crepe de chine was a little easier, but again I used all the above methods and got a pretty good result. 

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In terms of construction. Actually sewing this stuff isn't that hard but it does fray like a B. I used a super sharp needle, loosened my tension a little and lengthened my stitch. I french seamed everything, including the seam where I attached the ruffle and I made a tiny rolled hem on both the lining and overlay. I made a couple of errors: my straps are upside down so you can see the seam. I opted to only use the lining fabric for the straps as I feel the chiffon would be too delicate to stand up to that job.  I also matched the wrong sides when joining the lining to the overlay so the french seams on my lining are on the outside. But there was no way in a million years I was unpicking this fabric and they aren't really that visible, unless you're super picky. Like me.

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And you'll notice that the dress dips down a little at the back. I had toyed with the idea of doing this when I was levelling out the hem, but then decided it would be too tricky. Turns out my hem levelling leaves a lot to be desired as I got my dipped hem totally by accident.

I wore this dress for the first time on my wedding anniversary when Ben and I had a kid-free day and chose one of those days where we just went with what we felt like doing, which turned out to be street art and croissants in Bushwick, food trucks in Williamsburg, lying in the grass in Central Park, queuing for ice cream on the Lower East Side, cocktails in Nolita and dinner in Cobble Hill. A mish-mash tour of this city of many faces.

It was a fun day and I felt so comfortable despite the heat and got no less than five unsolicited compliments from random strangers about my dress.

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So it seems that stepping outside my comfort zone is worth it.

See you soon x

 

Seasonal Wardrobe Fatigue

At the beginning of summer, I'm so excited to not have to worry about layers and just be able to throw on a dress and sandals and head out.  By the time it comes to September, I am so utterly sick of every single dress I own and long for more 'interesting' combinations of clothing - that involve separates and layers and scarves.  

Don't get me wrong, summer is my time. Heat and the constant need for sunglasses and sunscreen fill my soul with light and if I could live somewhere where it was constantly warm I would jump at it.  Despite or perhaps because of hailing from the British Isles and all the weather systems that entails, I have no need for rain or cold. At all. (The latter is pretty hilarious given how goddamn cold it gets in this city).

That said, I definitely see the fun and interest in all four seasons, but I'm not someone who wishes them away (well perhaps in April, when it's still below freezing and winter has been going on for a lifetime - but that's my fault for living in NYC.) I do, however, constantly wish for interesting clothing arrangements.  

I made this dress in July and have pretty much worn it non-stop since, and consequently my relationship with it has soured and we're pretty close to breaking up, or at least putting ourselves 'on a break'. (I just watched 'How to be Single' on a plane, and for some reason Rebel Wilson saying 'OK, Season Three Ross' won't leave my brain.)

And now having looked at photos of it, I don't actually really like it that much on me. I clearly need to increase the armhole depth and the length hits me at the worst possible fat-knee place.

But before the relationship reached that stage of disgruntled overfamiliarity, I was utterly in love with everything about this dress. It is very simple, but incredibly flattering (at least so I thought) and in such a fabulous, take you anywhere (as Annie (my mum) would say) fabric, and so easy to throw on, feel pretty and go. Oh and the construction instructions are just brilliant.  Really, really good.

So, she is Ruby by the marvelous Tessuti made in a denim shirting from lovely Caroline of Blackbird Fabrics. I can't tell you how perfectly the fabric met my vision.  

I love a beautifully packaged independent pattern as much as the next sewing nut, but I also love how Tessuti are so honest with their patterns.  They are hand drawn and graded with no frills instructions but brilliantly drafted and the instructions always teach me something.

I've never used stabilising stuff when sewing before, but this pattern has you use it all around the neck and the armholes to ensure nothing stretches.  And it works a treat, there are absolutely no gapes anywhere.  I'll also, usually avoid visible bias binding like the plague, but it just works on this pattern and (shock, horror) I actually enjoyed every moment of putting it together.

I made very minor alterations to the pattern.  I decided to include a centre front seam as the fabric wastage would have been ridiculous if I'd cut both front and back on the fold. (I didn't put the seam down the centre back as I wanted to sew the keyhole and facing as instructed.) The seam is barely noticeable and then when I saw that a CF seam had been used on this awesomeness - after I'd finished the dress - I felt like the coolest kid. (I will be copying that next summer.)

I widened the neckline slightly and I added a load of length and then promptly took it all off again when hemming - this seems to be happening a lot; not sure what is going on with my deluded understanding of how long I am.

I love the cutaway shape of the shoulders - which is so flattering (if it's not all wrinkled due to being too high), and how, even though it trapezes out from under the arms it manages to hang in such a way that it shows some sense of your waist.  Perhaps this is because the side seams are essentially cut on the bias. I'm not sure but it's fab.

And with that I'm done writing about summer wear.  I made a lot more than I managed to blog, but as Morgan so eloquently writes, I don't need to sew all the clothes and I don't need to write about them all either.  

The love affair with this dress was all consuming and intense, but now I'm ready for trousers and shirts and myriad jackets and sumptuous scarves. Until May, by which time, I'll be all over her again like a rash. 

And that, my lovelies, is Seasonal Wardrobe Fatigue.

Much love

See you soon x

ps: it's been a bit sporadic of late, but Noble & Daughter turned 2 this week!