to the max: vogue 9104

I had big plans for maxi dresses this summer. I spent an entire morning one day on Instagram Stories going over my plans for at least three maxis, and I had a couple pages of notes and sketches in my journal with big ideas for these dresses. I even had cute blog titles for them like “great lengths” and “maxed out” and “floored” but this summer has flown by in a blink of an eye and I only got around to one maxi dress. I’m okay with that though, because it’s a pretty great dress. (I’m kind of bananas for it, really.)

Maxi dresses in the summer are one of those things that just make me laugh. It’s the hottest time of year and yet we’re intentionally searching for the longest dresses to wear? Isn’t there something ironic about that? I’ve had maxi dresses in the past, but besides the dress in this post I only have one or two store bought pieces in my closet now. I grew weary with the frumpy drape and cut of most of the ready-to-wear options, and I’m not someone who can wear low cut or spaghetti straps or something with lots of back exposure comfortably. So, I was always running to a styling issue of covering what I needed covered. “I can wear this if I put a necklace with it and if I throw on a cardigan too.” Not a great solution, but of course  I spent a couple years trying to force the issue – which just made me uncomfortable and sad.

My idea of the perfect maxi dress for me is something with a high enough neckline that it covers that scar on my neck I’m always complaining about and has full back coverage – but with enough flow and fullness that it doesn’t look like I’m a piece of sausage on sandals trying to walk around in a poorly cut full length dress in 100 degree Texas heat. I wanted something in a yummy rayon challis – lightweight enough to be comfortable but with enough drape and movement that it made a statement as you wore it. Why be boring when there are so many other options, right?

This fabric is another great find from Fashion Fabrics Club. (Not sure if it’s still in stock.) It’s a paint splatter print crinkle rayon, and it’s just really, really pretty. An unusual print for me, but I think it’s a perfect fabric/pattern match.

Like so many others I talk about on this blog, this pattern has been in my stash for a while but only when the right fabric came along did I finally get around to making it. It’s pretty clear to see why I like it so much, as it has all the design elements I need in a maxi dress. It also has a very interesting shaped hem with front and back slits. I appreciate this for air movement around your legs, but it’s also a very clever way to show off your shoes. (Virtually high-fives the fellow shoe lovers out there!)

I cut this dress out during my I-want-to-make-all-the-maxi-dresses day way back in June, but I got about halfway with it and decided to move on to something else. I’m so glad I rescued it from the unfinished pile because, my goodness, what a dress. Most of the things I make are comfortable, but this dress really deserves that adjective. I cut my normal size and didn’t make a single adjustment to the fit or design of the pattern. I will say that it runs a little big and that you can probably size down at least one size in it, and the hem was a little long on the sides, so I had to adjust that so that it didn’t drag on the ground. I omitted the armhole facings in favor of a bias tape finish, which I like much better.

The hem.

The back.

Thank you all for the kind messages about our recent home purchase and move. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, but we’re so in love with our new house and feeling incredibly grateful and humbled to have it. I’m still working on the studio makeover, but the end is (finally) in sight. I decided that this move was the perfect opportunity to finally make this the studio of my dreams, but it’s a huge undertaking. It’s pretty big room with seven doors (four leading to attic storage, one to a regular walk in closet, and two entrances), three windows, two built-in window benches, and a bunch of angled walls. Every inch of the space is getting painted, along with all of my tabletops and a few other furniture pieces. This has been an enormous test of my patience and determination, but I’m happy to do it because I know what it will look like in the end.

These photos are from a few days ago, and the walls have since gotten a second coat of paint, tape has come down, the tabletop has been finished and reattached to the table, sewing tables have been painted and sealed, and the window benches and cabinet doors are almost finished. I’ll go into more detail about this room once it’s more finished, but if you’d like to follow along with the progress, find me on Instagram – I’m posting updates in Stories every day. Seeing it all come together is so much fun!

Window benches mid-sanding:

Window benches after sanding, two coats of primer, and two coats of paint. Much, much better.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll be back next week with new posts and the first TÉLIO garment!

a fall collection with TÉLIO

I will never forget the first time I bought fabric. I was a freshman in college studying to become a physical therapist–worlds away from sewing and design. I had rescued the old sewing machine my parents had given me a few Christmases prior from the back of my closet, and I was playing with it off and on in my free time. One day, something changed. I knew I had to pursue fashion and design, so I changed my major and never looked back. My mom and I went to the local fabric store one weekend and she explained how you chose your pattern and ordered your fabric. I remember how thrilling it was to look through the pattern catalogs, and walking through the aisles of fabric was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I was completely enthralled.

After carefully selecting my pattern, I chose a bright pink linen fabric to make it. That skirt has been lost to time and countless moves over the years, but I vividly remember the color. (It was a pink so ridiculous and bright that it’s nearly impossible to forget.) I also remember the excitement of buying that fabric and going home with all of my supplies ready to tackle my project. I still get that feeling every time I buy fabric. For me, a single cut of fabric holds more potential than any mass-produced store bought garment can. That’s probably why, more often than not, I purchase fabric for the fabric itself, not because I already have a project in mind and I’m searching for something to use for it.

Fabric is one of my biggest inspirations, and it’s a huge, huge part of what I focus on here, which is why today’s announcement is so significant: I have partnered with TÉLIO, and I’ll be using their fabrics to create a fall capsule collection. (I’m not designing the fabrics themselves, just using them to make gorgeous clothes.) When this all came about, I nearly fell out of my chair with excitement. For the next several weeks, I’ll be revealing outfits one by one, and then I’ll put everything together at the end- along with a special showstopper piece – for a complete fall collection. This will be a fall transition collection, so no heavy coats or true cold weather items; rather, the focus is on an inspiring group of individual components that work for late summer and early fall in rich, luxurious fall colors like pine and navy and marigold and emerald.

Founder Joseph Télio with a French fabric supplier. Image courtesy of TÉLIO.

TÉLIO Fabrics is a leader in textile imports, with an inventory of over 3 million yards of fashion fabrics and more than 500 new textile products developed each season. Everything is outstanding quality and design, and the range of fabrics alone is seriously impressive. TÉLIO has everything from sequins and lace to faux leather and linens so yummy it’ll make your head spin. When it came time to choose the fabrics for this collection, it was the most challenging and totally awesome task I’ve faced in quite some time. One of TÉLIO’s biggest retailers is fabric.com, and I would encourage you to look through the selection there if you’re not familiar with the company.

TÉLIO was founded in 1952 in Montreal, by Joseph Télio, and today the company is headed by Joseph’s son, André. The company’s mission is to offer designers, manufacturers and retailers a superior quality, original product tailored to their specific needs. TÉLIO operates five showrooms (two each in Montreal and Toronto and one in Vancouver), manages over 90 employees and has a sales team of over 30 representatives around the world. I love companies with a meaningful history, so it’s yet another reason I’m so thrilled to work with TÉLIO, a company that has been around for six decades.

I’m looking forward to spotlighting this company and showcasing the variety and quality of the fabrics. The fall collection I’ve put together includes fabrics in a range of fabrications with lots of diversity in textures and drape and scale of prints. I can’t wait to share it with you!

André Télio & Terry De Cicco – President & Accounting. 

The happiest staff I ever did see. (And look at all the fabric!)

Renée & Joseph – Andrés parents. All images courtesy of TÉLIO.

Over the next several weeks you can expect a lot of fabric photos and plenty of new garments to inspire your fall sewing projects. I’m truly so happy and humbled by this opportunity, and I hope you have as much fun following along as I have choosing the fabrics to use and making new fall garments. Look for the first outfit next Wednesday!

Special thanks to Ericka and Rachel and the rest of the team at TÉLIO for being so wonderful. Now, let’s get sewing!

lace it up: vogue 9253

I’m in a sewing groove, if you will. I know–after many a style stumble and failed attempts at being trendy or wearing things that I’m not comfortable in–what works for me and what doesn’t. 99% of the time, I stick with my formula and my projects come together very well. I know where I can experiment and try new things (mainly through color or prints), and I’m happy to challenge myself and venture a little outside the box from time to time. But for the most part, I’m quite happy to stay in my lane, and I happen to really, really love my style.

Every once in a while, though, I find myself wearing a newly finished project that I’m not completely thrilled with for one reason or another. Most of the time, the projects I dislike are the ones where I’ve forced myself into a style that doesn’t work for me or I’m not comfortable in. (See a few examples of previous disappointments in this post of project fails from the first part of the year in this post. If you read that post, just be sure to follow it up with the successful projects post, just to balance it out. 🙂 ) The dress in today’s post has me feeling a little torn, and I can’t decide if I’m truly disappointed with it or not. It’s entirely possible that I’ve just been looking at it too much and I’m being overly critical, but I can’t decide if it’s a styling issue or a it-looks-like-a-robe-to-me-now kind of thing.

This dress is Vogue 9253, and it’s hardly a stretch to call it one of Vogue’s most popular patterns of the summer. I’ve seen some truly stunning versions on social media, which is where a lot of inspiration to sew it came from. It’s also a very flattering design and easy to sew. The plunging neckline is elongating and frames the face beautifully. I love the skirt and the pockets and the kimono sleeves and the ties and the pleats on the bodice. Lots of good stuff there.

For me though, I can’t really pull off such a plunging neckline, which is my way of saying that I can wear it but I’m not actually comfortable wearing it. My solution to this was to cut the dress as is but add lace trim around the neckline. My original idea was to only add the trim around the neckline, hem, and along the edges of the ties. I wanted it in those three specific areas so that the eye was drawn there, top to bottom: neckline, empire waistline, and hem. I had no plans to put it on the sleeves or down center front.

This dress has a center front seam in the skirt, and it was really distracting. I didn’t like it all, so in order to cover up the ugly center front seam, I added lace on either side of it. Then, I eliminated the idea of lace around the hem and the self ties, and I added it to the hem of the sleeves instead. I really like the placement of the lace (mirrored down center front, hugging the edge of the hem on the sleeve), but it does bother me that the lace around the neckline isn’t set against the white fabric like it is on the skirt and sleeves. If the lace was around the neckline but on the dress itself, I think I might like that a bit better for continuity. But then we’d have the low neckline again. Quite frankly (and this is my honest thought as I’m typing this), I think I should make that change and get over this silly nonsense about not being comfortable in the low neckline. So I have a dress in my closet with an extremely low neckline that I only wear twice a year and requires body makeup and special bra cups and nothing less than perfect posture at all times? Would that be the worst thing?

I didn’t make any significant adjustments to the pattern, except to shorten the waist ties a little and make the skirt hem 1 1/4″ instead of 5/8″. I made the hem deeper because I added 1″ horsehair braid to the hem to give it a little more structure and support the added weight of the lace down the front.

I made bias tape for the full measurement of the neckline, not just the back as the pattern suggests. This way, I could sew the lace in between the bodice and the bias tape. Keeps it in its place nicely. I also added a piece of grosgrain ribbon next to the zipper. The pattern instructs you to sew the bias tape on first and then install the zipper. That would have been fine if I hadn’t waited to serge my center back seams until after I’d sewn the bias tape. The result was a bit of a mess that I didn’t like.

The cover up.

 

The sleeve hem.

Back view.

I’m always saying that sewing and creating is a journey, and it’s projects like this–the stuff we’re less than thrilled with–that prove that point. Everything can’t be another oh-my-goodness-I-love-this-so-much winner. Now, you better believe that I do aim for a steady stream of outstanding pieces I absolutely adore, but it doesn’t always work out that way. To not share this dress with you would be disingenuous to the process. It would also be insincere and icky. Because I don’t care who you are, the “meh” stuff happens every once in a while. We all have the box of unfinished or abandoned projects or a secret closet where the disappointments stay hidden until the end of time. The point is to figure out why something didn’t work and make a note of that for the future. It’s also worth mentioning that you should never feel like you have to force yourself into something that you know won’t work for you just to try something “new” or simply because you’ve seen so many other people look fabulous in it.

Your style is exactly that: your style. Just because you may not look as amazing in a plunging neckline as someone else doesn’t diminish how ravishing you may look in something else. Be true to who you are and make what you like and what works for you.

We got the keys to our new house this week, and the movers will be here in a couple of days. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks with the sorting and packing and excitement of it all. I’m to the point where I’m ready for the actual move to be over and done with so I can start enjoying the new space. We went to the new house as soon as we got the keys the other day, and it was the first time we’ve seen it empty. I really like seeing houses empty. I don’t need to see staged rooms or other people’s things scattered everywhere. I can visualize what a space will look like much better when there’s nothing in it. We have big plans for the terrible kitchen, and I’m also making a few updates to the studio next weekend. Looking forward to sharing that with you soon.

Wish us luck for a smooth move this weekend, and I’ll be back soon with more new garments. I’m really excited about the things I’m showing you in the coming weeks. It’s good stuff.

We walked out of the new house yesterday morning to this. Deer, everywhere. I’m over the moon about the charm of this house and the neighborhood. Definitely getting some rockers for those magnificent porches too.

Have a great weekend!