Dressmaking

On why you shouldn’t spend $1000 on a skirt.

It’s been awhile I know.  I’m coming up on final exams which means hours and hours spent at my desk on top of the hours and hours spent at placement.  I’ve not had the headspace for things outside of my field.  I should be studying now, but it’s all a blur.

During my procrastination I sat down with a Strand Arcade (mall in Sydney) catalogue and came across a pink A-line Lisa Ho skirt in the order of around $1000.  I nearly choked.

Here is a photo of it not fitting the model properly and fancied up with a belt:

I know a lot would be asking, what’s the big deal?  It’s a designer skirt, what’s your point?

Skirts are one of the first things novice fashion designers learn to draft in fashion school.  Specifically, plain a-line skirts.  They are the easiest thing in the world to draft and make.  I’ve done it.  And my field is the opposite to fashion school.  It took me half a day and I was going slowly.  Unless that skirt is made out of fabric worth hundreds of dollars per metre (which it’s not), you wouldn’t get close to it being worth that kind of money.

So what kind of value do you get from the skirt?  The answer is none.  It’s a flat colour a-line skirt that you could make yourself or have someone make for you for under $100, using the same fabric, and since you chose the dressmaker yourself, probably with construction skills superior to the factory worker who did the Lisa Ho one.  And it would fit you perfectly.

What about the designer?  Isn’t that part of their creative vision? The answer is no.  They’re also a business.  For every complicated, more expensive to create garment, there has to be a fast cheap garment that they can charge a shitload for and make ridiculous amounts on because someone will buy it.  It doesn’t even matter if it doesn’t sell and they have to reduce it to $400 because then someone will still buy it, think they got an amazing bargain, and the seller is still laughing all the way to the bank.

So who buys this stuff?  We all do.  There was a thread recently on the Vogue forum where a discussion ensued about the way we see our own bodies in light of all this media about dressing to ‘disguise’ the socially unacceptable (apparently) parts of our body.  The OP who started the thread (in all innocence, I feel for her), said she didn’t want to have to think about this stuff, she just wanted to share ideas on dressing for ones shape.  Fair enough.

Bear in mind though, that designers rely on women not wanting to think about it.  They want you to see the label, to see the idea they’re creating in their advertising, for you to link the idea with the purchase, and then the idea with yourself when you make that purchase.  And once the sale is made they don’t care one bit about the massive remorse or the fact that you just maxxed out your credit card buying an idea because you’re unhappy with the current idea of you.  When the current idea of you is just fine, you’ve just got a shitload of media telling you that you’re not.  But that’s another post.

All right, you say, so what sort of garments should you spend the big bucks on, if you’re feeling so inclined?  Here’s my list

  1. Shirts that fit you really well.  These are hard to make, hard to fit, and hard to buy.  Spend the money.
  2. Draped dresses.  Draping takes work and is timeless – avoid the fitted tube dress at all costs, they’re probably the third thing the first year fashion students learn to make.
  3. Good, thick coats that also fit you well – they will last forever.
  4. Anything with an uncommon detail that you haven’t seen elsewhere.  Chances are some real work has gone into it.

Avoid spending big bucks on:

  1. Stretchy jersey stuff.  Unless it’s silk jersey (but good luck finding that).  Wool jersey gets a bit more leniency from me but given that we’re one of the largest wool-producing nations in the world, we shouldn’t be paying too much for it (even though we are).
  2. Simple skirts.  Go to Witchery and spend a quarter of the price on the same skirt!  It really is the same skirt!
  3. Shitty see-through silk.  There’s grades of everything and I’ve seen silk of worse quality than nylon.  If you’re surprised when you look at the fabric tag, put it back down.

But most of all, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to question why things are the way they are.  Ask yourself why the super-cool model with messy hair and faux-disaffected look on her face appeals to you so much.  Or why you would pay $1000 for something that is essentially worthless.  Would you pay $1000 for a 1 cent share?  Of course not, you’d pay it for a $1000 share.   Remember the old saying “a fool and his money are easily parted“.  Spend your money on the things that are constructed with talent and work and care, not on the things that only want to take your money and give you little in return.

A public service announcement.

I feel I have to comment after seeing a clip on TV about ‘eco-friendly’ bamboo fabric and how soft it is.  As something of a textile-nerd, nothing makes me more annoyed than seeing myths about certain fabric perpetuated.  Let us not speak of my blood boiling when I hear someone say “oh I like satin but not silk” (or vice versa)..  Which brings me to my point.

Rayon, viscose, tencel, modal and goodness knows what else they’re calling it these days are all the same thing.  They’re all also made from trees, from wood cellulose.  Some older kinds may not be, but by and large, all those fabrics come from tree wood, but naturalista’s, don’t get excited – they are completely unrecognisable from the wood from which they came.  It would be like getting excited over the water used in the production of your plastic water bottle.  Rayon is heavily chemically processed and is classed a semi-synthetic.  True, that means it’s semi-natural, and is quite a good fabric, but never mistake it for a natural fibre.

Now repeat after me, bamboo fabric is rayon. It’s rayon using a different wood-chip.  A bamboo-chip.  It is no more natural than that plastic water bottle, and it’s only claim to being eco-friendly is in the fact that it’s made from a highly renewable resource.  But it is not, by any stretch, a natural fibre.  Mind you it is more biodegradable than cotton, but I’ll save cotton for another rant (being one of my least-favourite) fibres.

That said, I’m not a naturalista – I love viscose, it’s versatile, when made well extremely drapeable, and great in humid weather.  There appears to be a lean by people towards ‘natural’ fibres, without an appreciation of the processing and resources required to produce them.  I wholeheartedly blame marketing and it is up to us, the consumer, to educate ourselves, even if that means bursting the bubble of artificial ideals.

Thrifty jacket refashion.

I don’t really shop at Witchery because I’m too petite for their long clothes, but I did see this jacket and love it recently, because I’m a sucker for military styling.

I don’t have $229 to spend on a jacket (and if I did I wouldn’t buy it from Witchery anyway, I’d be on The Outnet pretty quick), but I did have an old military jacket that I’d bought from Dotti about 3 years ago.

Then I found a seller on Ebay that sold sequinned appliques.

They are just gorgeous!  After that I sourced some fabric glue – it’s important to buy proper fabric glue and not rely on PVA – when you wash the garment, PVA will peel off.  So then I glued them on, and had to weigh them down for four hours until they were done.

Et voila!  The applique’s were about $3 each, and the glue was $4.  A wardrobe update for $10 isn’t bad at all.

Goodbye summer.

My walk in the harsh autumn light and cold breeze made me feel sad for summer.  I was married this summer, I went to Tahiti for my honeymoon, I did two placements, one here, and one in Cambodia.  I ate many mangoes.  I discovered Cambodian mangoes.  It was one of the best summers I’ve ever had.  I think I wore black today because I’m truly in mourning.  Also because I’m from Melbourne and when we can’t be bothered or don’t know what to wear, we wear black.

Last spring, excited about the impending warmth, I made my 09/10 summer dress.  I don’t get to make clothes much these days, and average about 2 garments a year!

It wasn’t a thrifty fabric choice – it was $50, but well worth it because I wore it all summer.  It was my official resort wear for Bora Bora, especially at dinner time.  Say what you like about rayon – when it’s done well (blended with cotton at a heavy weight), it looks beautiful.  It was Vogue 8469 if you’re wondering.

Mr G took this photo as I was getting ready for dinner at the resort.  The shoes were a thrifty $20 from the Mileno Warehouse sale – they always have 5 pairs for $100 – great if you go with a friend.  They’re a bright turquoise leather with a stacked wedge.

I miss summer.

$6 at the monthly market. Part 1.

As an epic declutterer, I try not to buy things that clog up my life, however I have several weaknesses. One of these is fabric. You do not get between a dressmaker and her fabric if you know what’s good for you, but it does result in a very big stash.

Lucky for me I found this pattern for $6 at a monthly market, and the stash contains a sky blue cotton/linen blend reminiscent of denim but far lighter.

Isn’t it gorgeous?  A knee length version in my sky blue fabric with big wooden buttons and gold thongs and messy hair is calling out to me. At $6 it was a bargain, the same pattern goes for $14 on Ebay.

The title of the post says part 1, because part 2 is where I make it and show you. Part 2 might be a while.