Behind the Seams: The ‘Mademoiselle’ Dress

What is Behind the Seams?

To complement the posts I’ll be contributing to The Sew Weekly (TSW) Challenge, I’m starting the ‘Behind the Seams’ (BTS) series to share more information on my thought processes during preparation and/or the actual construction process and sometimes tutorials on how things are done. More images of the completed garment will also be posted here. Through this series, I hope to share with you the ‘why’ ‘what’ and ‘how’ information and off course the photography sessions, hiccups and stories where relevant. So, if you like to, you can treat my post on TSW as Part 1 and BTS as Part 2 🙂

Week 1 Theme: Coco Chanel

As some of you already know, the inaugural theme is Coco Chanel and you can find my TSW post here.

The ‘Mademoiselle’ Dress:

Photo Gallery


How Coco ‘shaped’ my outfit?

I do not think I have ever done this much research before making a dress and it had nothing to do  with actual sewing but in getting to know more about a woman. The legendary Coco Chanel.

I loved her ideal of the LBD  and how versatile it should be. “A dress that was minimalist, sophisticated, elegant, to be worn at any time of day.” The Telegraph elaborated on this ideal perfectly. “Her revolutionary approach to design meant that the dress could be worn as day, cocktail and evening wear.”  And while I couldn’t sew my dress in black as it was for the Lunar New Year, I held this ideal close while selecting the sewing pattern. A dress that could be worn anytime.

Chanel was credited for making jersey a popular fashion fabric. And that definitely gave me a push towards using matte jersey for the dress. Nonetheless, her original jersey garments were mostly in black, grey and blue so I think the red color I chose is more Chanel (the brand) than Coco Chanel. Pure red garments can be found in almost all of its recent collections and numerous ad campaigns. A signature Coco Chanel design element is fraying at the hems or fringe trims, which I was most happy to add to the neckline.

How can I leave out the bright red lipstick and costume jewelry pearls. We owe these all to Coco Chanel and I had to adorn myself with them during the photo shoot 🙂

Pattern Review

The sewing pattern I used was No. 3 ‘Gather drape dress’ from the Japanese Sewing Book, ‘Drape drape’ Volume 1.

This is the first Japanese sewing pattern I used which didn’t require the addition of seam allowance.  I don’t read Japanese but as usual, the diagrams made the steps crystal clear. It was also the first time I sewed a dress from a one piece pattern. I was amazed just looking at it!  Little did I expect this dress to take up so much of my time.

The pattern is rather big so they divided it into two on the pattern sheet so you need to join them while tracing at the round circle indicated in the diagram below.  Look for the two No. 3 patterns on the overlapping pattern sheet and match the semi circles.

I followed the book diagram closely for the bodice and front of the dress. However,  during fitting I realized that a zip was not necessary for this dress as opposed to the notions recommended by the book. Also, I had to change the back of the dress rather drastically. Yes, I used the seam ripper a lot for this project.

You see, the book only shown a photo of the front of the dress but not the back (now we know why) and when I saw the technical drawing below, I thought it would only make my hip look bigger, which was fine by me. However, imagine my horror when all those gathers ended up at the narrowest part of my waist! I think it might be because the pattern was designed for Japanese women who are usually more petite than I am. I’m 5 feet 7 so for any brave soul attempting this project in future, try to lengthen the bodice if you see fit. I also lengthened the hem by 3 inches.

I removed most of the gathers at the back of the skirt so it ended up much cleaner. It is times like these that I wished I had a dressform as I had to repeatedly put the dress on, make markings with a fabric chalk or pin, take it off and baste.  It still isn’t perfect but now, I dare wear the dress out of the house 🙂

So, there you have it, my version of ‘Drape drape’ dress No. 3 with no zipper and overwhelming back gathers. The top of the back bodice is held together by huge snap buttons. I did quite a bit of hand stitching with the rose trim at the neckline too as it would be ugly to have a machine stitch running through it. A red dress is fabulous for the Lunar New Year as red is the color of prosperity. I hope you think it looks somewhat inspired by Chanel too 🙂



I had been enjoying the utopia of total control last year and now, the challenge is pushing me beyond my comfort zone. Instead of sewing along themes I am comfortable with. I now get to complete projects based on themes discussed and decided by the TSW team. Both exciting and definitely a whole lot more challenging. Perhaps for that reason, I also find myself more exposed, more vulnerable to self-doubt. I hope as the weeks and months progress that I will get more accustomed to the process and get to enjoy it  even more. It is also likely I am just feeling a little overwhelmed with all my family projects for Lunar New Year.
I hope you will enjoy this new series I am adding and if you find it beneficial, a simple comment is most appreciated 🙂 That way, I’ll know whether I should continue doing BTS.
It has been raining (sometime pouring) here for the past one and a half weeks. I hope for some sunshine so I can do some outdoor photography. That’ll be fun!
Have an amazing week everyone! A bientôt!
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Valentino Retrospective

I first found out about Valentino Retrospective Past/ Present/ Future exhibition from an inflight magazine on my way to Phuket and told my husband I wanted to see this. Now, I am not a fan and actually know next to nothing about Valentino but when I read that his vintage pieces would be showcased, I knew I had to see them. It was also my first visit to Resorts World Singapore, an integrated resort which also houses the pretty new Universal Studios, convention centre and a casino.

My husband was so obliging to have accompanied me to the event. I was so excited that I even wore the ‘Reflection of the Moon’ frock, which I made from a vintage sewing pattern.

The event had only toured Europe and Brisbane, Australia before Singapore and one hundred exquisite haute couture pieces were exhibited at this inaugural Asian exhibition. At the end of it I was in awe. I have new found respect for the designer- the man’s attention to details, the rich embroideries, simple yet alluring silhouettes and his signature use of solid colors- red, white and black. The only major bummer- no photography was allowed, even without the use of flash!

Nonetheless, that didn’t hinder me from showing you some of my favorites. The out of this world cape made from layers and layers of pink chiffon is clearly fabric art at its finest.

This lovely red vintage number from 1960 which was wore by Jennifer Aniston to the UK film premiere of ‘Along came Polly’ in 2004 is simple yet breathtaking.

Source: http://www.look.co.uk

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this white evening gown which Ashley Judd wore to the 2000 American Fashion Awards to present Valentino with the Lifetime Achievement honor. Just look at the white coil details on this perfect body hugging beauty!

Source: http://awhitecarousel.com

Not to be missed was this signature dress wore by Julia Roberts to receive the Academy Awards. I love how the ribbons came together to form its train at the back. It’s exquisite!

Source: http://www.watoday.com.au

And to have seen these dresses with my own eyes! The feeling is surreal! If you are interested to see more of the dresses showcased, do check out the photos herehere and here. My absolute favorites were some of his works from the 50s and 60s.

The photographs don’t really do justice to the garments as some details can not be seen from them. The event is in Singapore till 13 February 2011, so don’t miss it if you happen to be in town! Tickets are only at S$12 per adult or S$9 if you pay using mastercard.  In case you have any difficulty finding the venue, it’s just a level below the Hard Rock Cafe and Hotel.

Ebony & Ivory Kaftans

The inspiration behind my Kaftan or rather my subsequent decision to make one myself without a sewing pattern was this Chanel resort 2011 runway photo I blogged about previously. It was long, flowy and looked rather effortless to put together. So, I experimented and ended up with the Tribal Kaftan. After creating two more versions here, I dare say I’ve found the easiest way to make a stylish Kaftan. It takes only about an hour and a half to sew and another half hour if you are adding embellishments or trims. There are no zips nor buttons required (unless you are using buttons for embellishment). So, this is definitely something a beginner can sew or something you could whip up for instant gratification! The good news is the step by step tutorial is up. Yes, finally!

While the Chanel design is meant for next year’s resort collection, this full length version closely resembles what you can find on vintage sewing patterns from the 70s like the one below. So, the look is retro yet up-to-date!

My versions here are mid-length and a short top but if you use more fabric, you can achieve something very close to the Chanel look above.

A mid-length version because I wanted one that can double up as a swimsuit coverup and look presentable enough to be wore as a tunic over skinny jeans or leggings. I used approximately 2 meters (slightly over 2 yards) of fabric for this version.  The short blouse version came about because I had a meter (slight over a yard) of lace fabric which I love and wanted to sew into a top but was not sufficient for any blouse pattern I have. I am happy I managed to create two very different looks out of the same method.

Ebony Kaftan

An ethnic style Kaftan with an external facing for its v-neck and embellished with bronze iron-on studs and a bronze centerpiece from this store in Chinatown.

The fabric is a black cotton voile with white circular prints and some circular embroidery in orange and white I bought at this fabric store in Chinatown. It’s a unique print from Japan.

I cut the bottom hem slightly shorter on the front centre and love how flowy it looks:)

Ivory Kaftan Blouse

My husband thought this was store-bought and commented on how vintage it looked, much to my delight off course 😛

This ivory kaftan blouse has an internal facing, round neckline and long draping sleeves. It’s absolutely sweet and charming.

When I found it at Spotlight, this pretty lace fabric only had one meter left but I decided to get it anyway as I loved everything about it.

The actual lace fabric ends were my hand is on this photo as I added a lace trim to lengthen the ‘bodice’. The lace trim is from the same embellishment shop in Chinatown. It’s filled with wonderful items and I wished sometimes I could buy half the store:) Definitely a place my purse wants me to avoid! And finally, a close up of the wonderful lace fabric and trim.

I’ve also decided to include wherever possible the store details for fabric and notions used as there have been some enquiries on these and who knows, some of you might be visiting Singapore some day and wish to know where are the good fabric places to visit:)

Meanwhile, have a blessed weekend everyone! I gotta start thinking about my birthday dress…that actually slipped my mind!

Self-Stitched-September: The Finale

I did it and it was so worth it! I’m officially a Self Stitched September graduate LOL!

The last three days were pretty uneventful for me. It was the regular weekday routine but I did try to wear some garments I have yet to put on for SSS. After all, it was the final three days!

Day 28

I wore the summer lovin’ romper but felt a little self-conscious out of the house so I covered some skin with a cardi. It wasn’t a project I planned to sew but a muslin turned romper so no complaints there. How important can sleeves be? VERY! I will need to incorporate sleeves wherever possible. I am quite lost without them as I discovered this month.

Day 29

Two of the garments I am most comfortable wearing made their appearances once again on SSS. Little Folks Blouse and Black & White Bella. The cotton voile of the blouse made it comfortable to wear even on a warm day.

Day 30

I had to end SSS with a dress so I put on my Painter’s Block Melissa, my only knit dress. It was super comfortable. I wore it to the post office (Yes! I have mailed out the package to the giveaway winner!), supermarket and even to sew my Cape Vest 🙂 I might make a couple more of these in solid color fabric as I think I need a few more casual dresses for weekdays.

SSS has not only been gratifying but being a month long challenge, it has the potential of making a habit building impact. I think I am now ready to put on a made-me garment anytime rather than going straight for RTW.

I also got to confess that SSS made me more creative. Initially, I was carrying my tripod around for photo opportunities but as the days passed, my shoe rack became the ‘tripod’ for all these photos with beige/peach wall outside my place, another shelf in my living room was used for snapping all the living room shots and a short pillar at the stairway, the ‘tripod’ for most of my other shots. Improvisation as coverup for my laziness 😛 Here’s a collage of all my SSS outfits, my SSS summary:

While I was growing tired of the daily photo-taking towards the end of month, I must confess seeing the garments in photos reminded me that they looked good enough for a day out and I should make better use of these pieces. I am definitely adopting more made-me garments into my lifestyle and am all for participating in the next made-me month! Hopefully by then, I will be able to up the stake and do a full outfit challenge 🙂

How can I end this post without highlighting some of the many talented seamstresses I have met through SSS. I am now fans of Carolyn S (Handmade by Carolyn) and the stitchywitch(Green Apples)! You must check out their fabulous creations and the amazing outfits they wore for SSS.  I’m a fan! I love Carolyn S’s sense of style and this is my favorite of her outfits. And I absolutely dig the dresses Stitchywitch has made. Here, here and here! I am so gonna miss her blue wall and her version has inspired me to work on my own Roobois! But before that, I have raided my princess’ stash again. I needed some 1 yard fabrics to sew a couple of comfortable home shorts and am planning to try out the bloomer from Colette patterns.

Too cute and the pattern is free! Think I need some instant gratification from sewing these quickly before working on my Twinkle Sews top and Lady Grey! I also gotta start gathering yardage info for fabric shopping in Shanghai….hehehe…can’t wait!

A frock, a romper & a giveaway!

This is the project I have been working on for a number of days last week and the reason behind my first muslin. Remember the gorgeous retro inspired dresses with full skirt by Louis Vuitton I blogged about earlier? Well, this is my take on it. In fact, corset tops and dresses by Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton are on almost every fashion magazine here and I have been drooling all over them.

It is no surprised that I want to create my own version. Meet my Time Travel Frock. So named as I could very well travel to the 1950s and back in it without feeling out of place just by adding on a pair of pretty gloves. For this dress I opted for a 50s inspired drop waist skirt instead of a waistband.

I used the US$2 Margarete top pattern from burdastyle and modified it to create this look. The result is quite different from the original as I have widened the shoulder straps, inserted boning and padding to the bust piece and added a skirt to create this dress. Instead of piping, I used silver ric rac at the top of the dress.

The cotton fabrics are all from ikea. The camel fabric for the top is lighter than the home decor leaves fabric I used for the skirt. I simply love using home decor fabric for long skirts. This is the second time I doing so. The first was for the 50s Inspired Sabrina dress. It’s magical how they sway!

The dress is featured as burdastyle’s Project of the Week and you can create it too by following my tutorial here.This is the first time I created such a lengthy tutorial and I hope you have no problem understanding it 🙂 If you have any queries, please feel free to leave a comment or email me. I’ll try my best to respond. It should be suitable for an intermediate sewing enthusiast. You will need a dose of patience because there is quite a bit of fitting involved but you will be rewarded with a flattering corset dress. I will also encourage creating a muslin like I did for the top because you might need to adjust the cup size for a better fit by adjusting the bottom seam allowance of pattern piece number 2.

My now wearable muslin has a new invisible zipper too and is also ready to face the world! It might be the perfect alternative for my friends living in warmer climate or in the Southern hemisphere! Its called the Summer Lovin’ Romper. It’s terribly cute 🙂

Other potential variations I imagined include the bodice combined with Kasia skirt in nautical print fabric or with the Sean skirt for something more flirty!

To motivate you. my sewing comrades to create the bodice with or without straps for yourselves and play around with the bottom variations, I am having a Margarete kit giveaway. To participate, leave me a comment and tell me where in the world you are from. There will be one winner chosen by the random number generator (random.org) but you will need to indicate which of the two fabrics below you prefer. The grey leaves fabric from ikea or the retro red polka dot fabric from Japan. The 1 yard of fabric will be mailed with sewable plastic boning and foam padding anywhere in the world, to the winner.

If you subscribe to my blog via wordpress, you are automatically given another chance in this giveaway. If you subscribe via other RSS services, please leave me a comment telling me for example that you have subscribe via blogger/google/bloglovin etc, so you get another chance. You can also get a third chance if you blog about any of the two outfits above. The giveaway will end Monday 27 September 2010. I hope you enjoy participating in this giveaway and happy sewing everyone!

Inspiring Home Decor

I’m stash busting so I really shouldn’t be at a fabric store but I desperately needed to stock up on machine needles and tracing paper so my husband and I made a trip to Spotlight. I grabbed them as quickly as I could and totally avoided the fabric section for my own sanity! After congratulating myself for the good exercise of self-control, we decided to lunch at a charming little cafe located right next door. It is called Tea Cosy. I have gone passed the cafe on many occasions. Surrounded by hundreds of white angel statues, the cafe only has around a dozen tables and looked extremely cosy and quaint. Little did I expect to find beautiful toile fabrics and retro inspired furniture in it!

Baby blue, brown and red toile fabrics were used as tablecloths and for chairs while gingham fabric was sewn into cushion covers, tablecloths and place mats.

The fabrics are not for sale but the chairs covered in toile prints are…in fact they sell all the fabulous retro inspired furniture too. So essentially it is a cafe cum showroom concept. I love the look of the place and off course the huge photo print of Audrey Hepburn! I want that gorgeous picture and the black leather chair in my sewing room so badly! Okay, the red chair and the hanging candle-stand can come along too!

How’s your weekend so far? I hope it has been cosy, relaxing and sew wonderful!

Fall 2010 Inspiration

I have always enjoyed reading magazines. My focus was always content. Since I started sewing for myself in May, I am no longer seeing fashion magazines the same way.  I absolutely need my phone next to me so I can snap away at all the little details on images that inspire me. Here are some that wowed me.

These cute scallop edge pockets on this Miu Miu dress on the magazine cover.

or this beautiful and elegant lace dress.

It is such a basic shift dress. What a difference fabric choice and added bow make!

Then, there were other images which led me to check out full collections at style.com. Like many women out there, I am totally in love with the Louis Vuitton Fall RTW 2010 Collection especially these 50s inspired dresses with corset tops, wide shoulder straps and circle skirts. The pointy heels, ponytails, skinny belts or ribbons completed the look. It has got to be my favorite collection this fall and the autumn hues are awesome!

Sophia from iroiro, had also expressed her adoration for this collection on her blog. Here are some sewing patterns with great potential which I’ll like to highlight for the sake of anyone, like us, who love to sew and love the look.

First up, Vogue 8288 which Suzannah from Adventure in Dressmaking used for making this super sweet corset dress.

As Sophia highlighted to me, there’s also Vogue 1174. When I saw the photo, I remembered Tasia’s (Sewaholic) stunning dress.

For the long circle skirt, there is a tutorial here and an alternative is the panel skirt. You can find a brief tutorial by Un Chic Petit.

There is another collection that rocks in a different way. See the mix of mesh fabric over cut outs on these dresses in Proenza Schouler’s Fall 2010 Collection? Love them! I thought the black and white plaid dress was magnificent and love love love that crazy plaid print! Is it even plaid when laid flat I wonder?

This vintage sewing pattern of a similar babydoll design is from SewingwithMissDandy. It’s McCall’s 3832. The neckline has to be raised though for the cut out to be above the bust.

How adorable are these dresses with 50s vibes from the Prada Fall 2010 Collection?  The ruffles on the upper bodice works wonders for body proportions. However, I couldn’t help thinking if the bare midriff was necessary. What do you think?

I thought Vintage McCalls 4120 is not only perfect for modifications (In fact most 50s dress patterns with a round circle skirt will probably do) but I liked this one in particular cos it contains pattern pieces to create all those fabulous retro necklines! It’s available at Tricotgirl.

Do you have a favorite dress? Are you already working on a sewing project similar to these?

This is my second runway cum vintage pattern related post since Resort 2011: Retro Inspiration. I hope the images and patterns inspire you.  As for me, I need to think about how to adapt the vintage and new patterns I have or search for pdf ones online to recreate the look. The problem is the shipping cost to where I am. It is almost always higher than the pattern cost.

Did someone say Holiday Wardrobe Project? Yes, I am still working on that. Aren’t we ladies created to be fantastic at multi-tasking? Now, back to reading the magazine’s content. Have a great weekend my sewing comrades!

Photos source: Elle Singapore and Style.com

Rest. 休息 . Reste. レスト

It’s a few days leading up to Singapore’s 45th National Day and my husband is on leave!!!  I am taking a break from sewing for just a few days. It’s so difficult to find time for each other after having kids so I try to cherish each and every couple moment 🙂 We managed to spend some quality couple time together today. We watched the movie ‘Inception'(finally!), had a yummy Korean lunch and visited Kinokuniya.

At the bookstore, I browsed the Japanese sewing books section but didn’t find anything I fancied unfortunately. However, I chanced upon Wenlan Chia’s “Twinkle Sews: 25 handmade fashions from runway to your wardrobe” in the English crafting section and boy was I hooked!  This is not a new book. It was published in 2009 but it’s the first time I’ve seen it and I just had to get it to recreate some of these stunning outfits…someday! While this is not a Japanese sewing book, I can see some Japanese influence on the designer. Here are some stunning images I wanted to share with you.

Love this dress with a unique tie collar

Details of an origami collar on another blouse

Simple and chic dress

Fabulous smocking details

Simple sportswear inspired top

Have a blessed week everyone!

Strange reminder & new theme

How often do you want to do something but keep forgetting due to all that distractions in life? I am convinced some reminders are heaven sent! I was driving home after sending my princess to school last week when I stopped at the traffic light. Suddenly I noticed some letters on a delivery track in front of me.

They are on the right door panel and I enlarged it for easy viewing here.

Okay. All right. I’ve heard you loud and clear darling fabrics. I would give you a good cleaning so you would be all ready for the new sewing theme. Here you are, some of you look pretty and clean now, all washed up for some tender ironing. I still need to work on a few of you. Nonetheless, my heartbeat races just by looking at all of you and yes, I am smiling…joyfully!

I am finally using a Nani Iro double gauze (far right bottom in photo)! Yay!

My new challenge?  I will be tackling a new frontier. Japanese sewing books. I’m terrified and excited at the same time. I have to do some research on this not only because it is a brand new area but I can’t read Japanese. The Moving Hands blog which highlighted Japanese sewing and pattern terms was a great help. At least it helped me understand the notions I required and gave me hope, an added sense of confidence that I can conquer the pattern. I have only two Japanese sewing books at the moment, ‘Les couleurs francaises’ and ‘Feminine Wardrobe’. So, I will be working on projects from these first.

While researching the topic, I also chanced upon a french blog. Another language I wished I knew. The Japan Couture Addicts blog is marvelous. It showcases finished works from Japanese Sewing Books and these are categorized by the books! I found the ‘Les couleurs francaises’ showcase here and the ‘Feminine Wardrobe’ one here.  Here are my favorites!

Dress by Made By Night

Blouse by Bulle de Gum

Blouse by Le Tricomonde de Sophie

Dress by PHISSO

I am inspired 🙂 I feel fully charged and ready to take on the challenge! If my first few attempts are successful, this theme may stretch beyond two weeks as there are just so many cute blouses and dresses in the books!

50s Inspired Sabrina Cape Dress Part 2

Thanks for waiting, I am now ready to unveil the 50s inspired Sabrina Cape Dress. Yes, the entire outfit!

With cape

Without cape

This outfit was inspired by the image below originally posted by the Selfish Seamstress. Do you think my part modern, part vintage pattern combination successful delivered the outfit?

My review on burdastyle’s Sabrina dress sewing pattern can be found on my previous post.  I adapted the cape portion from my seriously overused butterick B5032.

It’s funny that I’ve used this cape pattern for two very different capes and never the one on the pattern cover. The other one is here. I cut the pattern pieces for the front and back of the cape, did the darts, sewed the front and back pieces together and did a fitting with the dress on. I identified where the front had to end so that the cape can be buttoned to the dress. I cut away the excess fabric and sewed on a poly lining.  After another fitting to ascertain the placement, buttonholes were sewn on.

Oh! And I just wanted to show a better photo of the cute egg colored buttons i mentioned in the last post and the iron-on hemming tape I discovered at Daiso.

I read about the Very Purple Person using the hemming tapes on her projects and was curious about it. So, I decided to give it a try when I found it. It is a dream to use! Your hem is finished beautifully in a few seconds!

TGIF! Have a fantastic and rejuvenating weekend everyone!