Friday, July 31, 2009

Problem Neckline? Camouflage!

Following on from SOLUTIONS FOR PLUNGING NECKLINES, we're starting on a new series, Ways to Use a Small Piece of Fabric.

Part 1: Camouflage
Do your shirt buttons gape?
Do you wish to draw attention away from a close-fitting jumper?

Here's how a small piece of fabric can solve both those problems.

Above, gaping buttons are out of sight, and below...

bust line is rendered secondary by an attractive necktie drawing the eye upward to the face.

The scarf is a 52x120mm rectangle with 'tweaked' tie ends (formerly a bikini wrap), made from a web knit with overlocked edges. In its new life, it gets the overhand knot treatment and is readily slipped on and off over the head.

More scarf tricks coming soon.

Like this, maybe?

Maybe not.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Spotlight Formal Wear Competition 2009

Enter the Spotlight Formal Wear competition and show the world that
a gorgeous gown can be a modest gown.

All you have to do is purchase the fabric for your formal garment from the fabulous range available at Spotlight and send in the entry form with photos of your creation together with proof of purchase and you could be a winner!

Visit Spotlight's website to view terms & conditions and to download an entry form.
Spotlight New Zealand
Spotlight Australia

• 4 Runner-up winners to win $250 Spotlight Gift Voucher each.
• 1 Overall winner will receive $1000 Spotlight Gift Voucher, plus a return trip to Melbourne for the winner and a friend to attend the 2010 L’Oreal Fashion Festival, with 3 nights twin share accommodation and a chance to be featured in an issue of ‘get creative’ magazine.

Entries close Sunday, 20th September, 2009.

Above gown from

Above style from

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
-- Akeelah and the Bee

Above gown from

Friday, July 17, 2009

Further Solutions for Plunging Necklines

Make a mix-n-match dickey/chemisette

Part 4 in the Series: Solutions for Plunging Necklines

Sharon showed me a simple version of the velcroed dickey that she came up with. The key to this creation is adhesive (sticky-backed) velcro dots from a sewing supplies store. The dots come in packets of about 8, available in different sizes. Sharon uses ones that are about an inch in diameter.

She took a piece of fabric left over from her layered peasant-style skirt and created a 'patch' to fill the neckline of the shirt she wished to wear with the skirt. She added velcro dots to the shirt facings, fixed the other half of the dots at corresponding positions on the patch (right side up), joined the two layers and voila! she had an attractive, modest outfit.

Sharon says she learned that a half-circle of velcro is all that's necessary to keep the patch in place. She can use that same patch on other tops, so long as the other tops have the corresponding velcro portion on their facing.

The adhesive on the back of the dots does not unstick during laundering, although I suggest a delicate cycle will help extend its life.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tizzies Glamour

Last winter I explored the recesses of an exclusive fashion store, a tiny store in a tiny town that packs a lot of punch. Ladies with deep pockets travel from all over the country to acquire some Tizzies glamour.

Curiously, the shop itself is supremely lacking in glamour, with faded Persian carpets covering a concrete floor, two standard lamps lighting a drafty, curtained changing room with a little blow heater chugging its guts out against the wintry blast from the open door of the shop, whither the client repeatedly tiptoes to view her elegant array in the cheval mirror set where it benefits from natural lighting. No, there's nothing in the appearance of that dim room to suggest that the goods being sold are anything above the ordinary.

But the clothes! Satins, silks, and chiffons, sequined, beaded, and embroidered, feathered and flowered hats in glorious colour and inglorious disarray, a mountain of cloth-draped boxes behind the counter, hats piled on the floor, stacked as high as the dress racks, stacked on top of the dress racks. Those racks are crammed to an alarming point, the hangers threatening to shoot off the pole ends from the pressure. A large sign kindly instructs customers to let staff find what is needed.

I watched Sylvia zoom in on a selection of choices for a client, picking out a range of colours and styles appropriate for the shopper's special occasion. Unerringly, she found hats to match the garments that perfectly suited the client's features, a client who kept repeating, against the insistence of her reflection, that she couldn't wear hats. An ordinary, motherly woman in lace-up boots, wool trousers, and cosy polarfleece was transformed into a vision of charm and beauty.

Along the way, I heard some Helpful Hints for the Mother of the Bride.
  • Wear the hat on a slight sidways tilt. Yes, it looks cute and saucy, but it also means when you're in the reception line, your hat won't pop off every time someone kisses you.
Some hat crowns are designed to collapse for travelling. To pack a non-collapsible hat, turn it upside-down, stuff the crown with items like underwear, and surround the brim with other clothing.
  • Wear natural shade stockings, NOT black. Black seems to shout at the camera, "Notice me!" Ladies say, "But black makes my legs look slimmer". Sylvia says, "That's just not true."
  • Ask for the corsage to be made for your wrist or handbag, not your lapel. Lapel corsages get rather roughed up in the reception line, putting pressure on your gown and encouraging stamens and petals to share their colour with the fabric - boths yours and whoever is hugging you.
Advice for everyone trying on clothing for a special occasion, whether it's off the rack or being made especially for you:WEAR THE UNDER-GARMENTS YOU PLAN TO WEAR ON THE DAY. I forgot this when I went for a fitting of my 21st birthday dress, wearing a comfortable wide-strap sports bra instead of the delicate lace item I planned to wear for the party, which was one that would alter my shape, meaning the seamstress, bless her for her patience, couldn't be sure the shaping she was working into the bodice was going to fit me properly.

What makes a design exclusive? Apparently, skirt loops featuring the designer's logo.

Sylvia sold her client two suits that elongated a short, wide shape whilst retaining a modest neckline, outfits in cheerful colours (not black or navy) for the two London society weddings she was attending.

When the lady arrived in London, she purchased another suit, a Paris design, just because she liked it. The above photographs are from her son's wedding. The day of the second wedding, her daughter's, dawned grey and gloomy, and she decided the Paris suit was a more cheerful colour than the wisteria blue New Zealand ensemble.

Set against a natural wood background, light catches the satin jacquard fabric of the New Zealand suit, light that London didn't have enough of the day of the wedding.

The Paris Suit

I've always wanted to see what makes a "Paris gown" special (apart from its price), and now you can have almost as close an inspection of this 3-piece suit as I enjoyed a few weeks ago. Note the extra details: rows of simple embroidered dots, simple beading around sleeve and neck edges, an embroidered covered button.

For those of us who strive to add the extra touches that make a gown super special, you'll be interested to note that the beading around the neckline isn't perfectly executed...a misplaced bead, a misplaced thread, a misplaced knot can even be found on a Paris gown. What a revelation.

The black hat, which was worn with both outfits, was accidentally left behind in London, but I did get a number of photos of the aqua headpiece, known as a fascinator (see the lead image for this article). These will be featured in a later post. I hope you've enjoyed this spot of glamour, but remember, a smile is the most important thing a woman can put on in the morning.

"A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind of beauty no matter what she wears." Anne Roiphe

Friday, July 3, 2009

More Solutions for Plunging Necklines

How to Make Your Own Dickey or Chemisette
Part 3 in the Series: Solutions for Plunging Necklines

If you really like the dickey idea but want to dispense with the lace, you could sew a selection for yourself, choosing fabric and furbelows that match your garment. I made several broderie anglaise dickeys, all of them in white because that went with everything and looked dainty and feminine. This was my first effort (below). Later models were lined (adding a layer of plain white cotton, sometimes with interfacing between the two).

A velcro tab is stitched to the top edges of the dickey. The tabs wrap around your bra or camisole straps allowing the dickey to sit securely between them all day.

The one complication to this can be that the distance between underwear straps is not consistent from one garment to another. For instance, your bra straps may sit an inch further toward your shoulder than your chemise straps. If you have to choose, bra straps are usually sturdier for fastening dickeys to. I recommend when you make your dickey that you measure the average width between your straps and make the dickey to fit that. Longer velcro tabs will also allow for greater adaptability.

The one complication to this can be that the distance between underwear straps is not consistent from one garment to another. For instance, your bra straps may sit an inch further toward your shoulder than your chemise straps. If you have to choose, bra straps are usually sturdier for fastening dickeys to. I recommend when you make your dickey that you measure the average width between your straps and make the dickey to fit that. Longer velcro tabs will also allow for greater adaptability.
Here's a polyester dress I found at SaveMart for a couple of dollars. The neckline was too low, so I found a white cotton t-shirt to wear under it, but in the middle of summer, that many layers was uncomfortable. That's when the dickey was perfect, preserving modesty without perspiration.

Note that these photographs are taken on a dark model, so facings are more visible than they would be when I wear the dress. I wear a white cotton chemise under the dress, but I couldn't convince the model to squeeze into that for the photo shoot.

Directions to Make Dickey:
  1. Draw a paper pattern of the shape you need to fill the gaping neckline. Add extra width and depth to allow for the garment shifting when you move, plus seam allowance -- a narrow hem is good for the sides (my example used 8mm), but I recommend a 15mm or wider hem for the top edge so it looks like a shirt seam and not underwear-ish.
  2. Fold the paper in half lengthwise and check that both halves are the same. Leave it folded.
  3. Fold your fabric in half, and set the fold of the paper against the fold in the fabric. If you're using a patterned fabric, make sure the design is centred on the fold. Pin and cut.
  4. Add iron-on interfacing or pin an underlayer to your main fabric.
  5. Fold the side edges under, press, and hem. (If you have two layers, you may need to stitch them together first.)
  6. Cut velcro tabs. I've used 4cm for the fluffy-side folding tab (+ seam allowance), and 2.6cm for the prickly-side tab holder.
  7. With the fluffy side facing the wrong side of the fabric, pin the tab 15mm below the top edge of the dickey. Fold the top edge down to form a 10mm hem, raw edge tucked under the velcro. Press.
  8. Stitch along upper edge of dickey.
  9. Place prickly-side velcro holders level with the tabs, on right side (outside) of fabric. Stitch.

Coming soon: FURTHER SOLUTIONS for plunging necklines.

Please pardon the delay in posting the last two week's posts. Blogger's auto scheduler seems to be asleep.
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