Commercially Alternative: January 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wardrobe Architect: Week 4 - Building Silhouettes

Create a set of balanced silhouettes.

This week was much more challenging than previous weeks. Leading up to week 4, I have filled out the required worksheets and happily answered questions about myself. Now, I needed to use what I've learned to create silhouette formulas. 

The exercise was to look over my shape ratings from last week and start combining them to create 5-10 silhouettes that would make good outfit formulas. 

Going through this exercise, I realized how weak I am in creating coordinates. I had trouble finding pictures of actual garments. I would get hung up on the color or material. Then I would spend far too much time searching for the correct accessories and shoes. In addition, what little I did find looked like a mess, unrealistic, or something that wasn't really me.

I needed to simplify. What was my goal for this project? Was it a complete wardrobe overhaul? No, it was a capsule wardrobe, a collection of a few essential items of clothing that will not go out of fashion, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces. After looking over my previous worksheets, the answer was clear. 

My goal was to sew retro inspired dresses that I will actually wear for work or play. My descriptor words were classic, practical, elegant, natural, and feminine.

To further simplify matters, and not get bogged down by the rest of the coordinate, I looked at only the line drawings from patterns. This actually doubled as another exercise for the month of January, design or collect 20 pattern ideas that reflect your core style and preferred silhouettes. I found 15, but I think each fits my goal rather well and quite a few have different options for necklines, sleeve length, and skirt length.

Dresses with full skirts and defined waists

Dresses with straight skirts and defined waists
Sheath dresses

Full skirts

Straight skirts


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wardrobe Architect: Week 3 - Exploring Shape

Determine what shapes make you feel comfortable and happy, and which feel foreign and wrong for you.

This week, the Wardrobe Architect Challenge provided a worksheet where we rate our feelings on various garments' fit and shape.

This exercise didn't take too much effort to think about. I've been well aware of what basic shape elements I look for in clothes for a long time now. I like modest necklines and lengths, full skirts, and a good structured/tailored fit that's not baggy or skintight. Although, a few items were difficult to rate because I can like or hate a given element based on a particular garment. For example, I love sleeveless dresses, but it's rare that I like sleeveless shirts.

The trouble for me comes down to finding clothes that actually fit and knowing what looks good together. I can love everything about a dress I find in a store; boat neck, defined waist, full skirt. However, when I try it on, the waist will be too high/big and the skirt will be far too short. Another problem I run into is creating outfits or coordinates. I just don't have the skill to know what looks good with what. What kind of top looks good with this skirt? What color should it be? Texture? Pattern? Material? Accessories? Shoes? Hair? I struggle pulling it all together. Thus, I typically opt for a t-shirt and jeans. As you can tell, I'm already struggling with next week's exercise, Building Silhouettes.

And how in the world do you all even find cute clothes for your fancy polyvore and pinterest boards!?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wardrobe Architect: Week 2 - Defining a Core Style

Uncover the styles that make you feel like yourself and attach words and images to them.

When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy, poised, powerful, etc)?

My favorite clothes make me feel pretty, tall, elegant, and glamorous. Like I stand out in a good way and turn heads. In my favorite clothes, I feel like a model. Right now, I’m thinking of my metallic leopard print sheath dress from Ann Taylor. Or my little black with white polka dots sheath dress I wear with my bright pink pumps to church. Or my full and fluffy, with my perfectly defined waist, wedding dress. (The last one gave me an overwhelming desire to twirl wherever I went) Poised and confident can also be words to describe my feelings. When I wear my favorite clothes, I actually feel like running into someone I know. (Though you never do. You only run into people you know when you are at the pharmacy counter at the grocery store in your hoodie with no makeup and you’re coughing a whole bunch) 

When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

Soggy. Frumpy. Chunky. Too busy. Over done. Like a tart.

Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

Grace Kelly - She is all elegance and glamour. Her fashion choices and poise are classic.

Audrey Hepburn - Audrey is sleek and fun. She can go from chic slim pants to elegant party dresses effortlessly. In addition, I love how she pulls off a pixie.

Fanny Rosie - I sigh every time I see her post an outfit. Her style is classic, cute, and pretty. She has mastered the use of muted and royal colors. 

Jennifer Lawrence - She has a sexy look to her while remaining quite elegant. I love edgy short haircuts and she does them extremely well.

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

Unstructured, baggy, loud, bright, bulky, bombshell, polyester

Look over your answers from last week on history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location, and body. List at least 15 words that you associate with your answers. Think about descriptive words, moods, and feelings you associate with these things.

Retro, Vintage, Modest, Pretty, Professional, Comfortable, Easy, Cool (temperature wise), Classic, Structured, Elegant, Not Worldly, Natural, Tall, Minimalism, Appropriate, Mature

Are there other words you would like to add to this list? What other words describe your core style?

Glamorous, Feminine, Variety

Look over the answers to all of the questions above. If you had to narrow your list to only 3-5 words to describe you, which words would you choose?

Classic, Practical, Elegant, Feminine, Natural

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sewing News - Gertie’s Grand Giveaway!

Gertie from the well-known Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing has just made an extremely exciting announcement. She is releasing a line of apparel fabrics to be available at Joann’s this March! Here’s what she says about the line:
"It's a collection of 17 designs on apparel fabrics: cotton sateens, cotton poplin, rayon challis, Swiss dot, chambray, and more. 
The designs range from classic vintage florals to 40s- and 50s-inspired novelty prints (cherries and strawberries and bows and poodles!). There are also some super fun novelty weaves especially intended for retro dress patterns. 
The idea was to create special vintage prints that are hard to find, produced especially on apparel fabrics. (Retro kitty cats on a textured chiffon, for instance!)"
Retro prints in cotton sateen and cotton poplin!? I am dying with excitement. Just look how cute it all is!

To celebrate the announcement, Gertie is having a contest. Create one of her patterns available at Butterick before January 31, 2015 for a chance to win one bolt of EACH of the designs!

There are quite a few patterns to choose from

I’ve had my eye set on 6094 since it came out. However, I’m not sure if I want to do the flared skirt or the straight skirt.

I’ve never entered a contest before. Could I even complete such a task before the 31st of this month?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wardrobe Architect: Week 1 - Making Style More Personal

I have been brainstorming ways to get back into blogging and regularly write and sew every day. Instead of getting clearer, things seemed to get out of hand. 

I want to make so many things. However, will I really wear them? Does each of the individual garments have anything to do with each other? If I make this skirt, do I know what top to put with it? Etc.

I want to write more. What topics should I cover? Do I write tutorials when there are probably better ones somewhere else? Won’t finished garment posts get redundant? 

Then there’s time and motivation. Can I sew enough to get regular posts posted? Can I still keep my social life and be active with my husband and friends? When and where do I take pictures that people actually want to look at? Do I really truly care enough about these projects to see them to completion? Will I grow bored and drop the whole thing?

Then today, The Coletterie posted their Wardrobe Architect 2015 challenge. It is a monthly challenge to ultimately define your core style and build your wardrobe with sewn garments. It seemed rather large and daunting when I first read it. Surely, I’m not ready for such an endeavor. I’m still a beginner seamstress; I can’t keep up with this. However, an hour or so later, I went back to the challenge. I’ve never been happy with my wardrobe. I can stand there, looking at the full racks and drawers, and find nothing to wear, day after day. When I clear things out yearly, and give what I don’t wear anymore to Goodwill, each item seems to have a necessary purpose. Yet, I haven’t worn most of them for a very long time and cycle through the same few shirts every week. I needed this.

I was relieved to see that each month’s challenge was broken up into a weekly post and a worksheet to fill out or a goal to accomplish. It seemed more possible, very useful, and maybe fun!

Every Thursday I hope to post my results from the challenge. I am very excited to begin and I hope you enjoy this series. Wish me luck!

Week 1 - Making Style More Personal

HISTORY: How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystallize? Have they changed over the years, and why?

Growing up, I watched a lot of old TV shows, movies, and period dramas with my mom. I’ve probably seen the entire series of “I Love Lucy” ten times over. Every Christmas, my family watches the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. And that doesn’t mean we don’t see it multiple times throughout the year as well! Thus, as long as I can remember, I have loved dresses. When I was little, if we were at home and didn’t have people over, I had some sort of frilly dress on. I loved dressing up in my best dress every Sunday for church. I was definitely born in the wrong fashion era. However, whenever I went out I always dressed in what was practical or comfortable. By middle school, I was solidly in jeans and t-shirts. It didn’t help that anything other than knit T’s and jeans didn’t fit me well at all. Now that I have sewing knowledge, I want to be able to express myself through fashion and how much I love fashion. 

I would say that my overall tastes haven’t changed since I was a little girl; vintage dresses are still my calling. However, I would say smaller tastes have changed based on what looks good on me; certain necklines, skirt styles, etc.

PHILOSOPHY: How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?

My Christianity has led me to a more modest aesthetic. Things can’t be too short or revealing. This is hard to do when you are tall. Most dresses, though fine on their own, instantly become indecent. Even with the modesty, I still want to feel glamorous and sexy. At least not at all frumpy. 

CULTURE: How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?

This one’s a little tricky. What is my cultural background? I really got into nerd/geek culture in college and there are many nerdy/geeky t-shirts in my closet to show for it. Mordorable anyone?

I guess this goes a bit with my Christian background as you dress appropriately for the occasion. Your best dress for church and flip flops are only for the pool. 

COMMUNITY: How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?

I met my friends in an anime club in college. I think that says more than enough, but I’ll expand. In college, we pretty much wore what was comfortable and what got you to class on time. If your shirt was nerdy/geeky like a shirt from a video game or online comic, you got bonus points. My classmates were male engineers. Quite often, I was the only girl in the class. For internships and work as an engineer, I wore jeans and polos, professional and functional. Thus, I would say my IRL communities really hinder me in my expression of style. The people I’ve met online have let me develop my tastes to this point. 

Through the anime club, I became aware of Lolita. I joined online communities and made friends with the girls interested in this alternative fashion from Japan. It rekindled my love of dresses, especially when I discovered the subgenre of classic Lolita. Now that I’ve been out of college a few years and have matured in my tastes, Lolita doesn’t have the draw it once did. However, it did start me on the path of learning to sew and learning what it is that I like in fashion.

ACTIVITES: How do your day-to-day activities influence your choices?

I always go practical. For work, I dress professionally in slacks, flats, and a button up top. It’s actually about two styles of top in about five different colors each. For every day, I wear tennis shoes, jeans, and a cotton t-shirt. Again, it’s about three or four different styles in a variety of colors each. (Plus, aforementioned nerdy/geeky T’s)

LOCATION: Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?

It’s hot. It’s always hot. Everything I buy is cotton or mostly cotton.

BODY: In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

I’m comfortable with my body. Sure, I have my insecurities and things I would change. Overall, I like how I look. However, I am tall and slightly busty. When I go shopping, nothing fits right. The waist of every dress is just below my bust. Long sleeve shirts are more like oddly proportioned 3/4 sleeves. If a shirt fits me at the bust, I look boxy with no waist. Shirts always show my stomach. Pants show my ankle or aren’t available in my size in a tall. By the time I fit my thighs in pants, the waist is enormously too big. Etc. Etc. Etc. Shopping is no fun. Thus, my t-shirt and jeans wardrobe. 

I feel most comfortable in a well-structured dress, like a sheath or something that emphasizes my waist. Things that are sloppy, baggy, or with no waist definition make me feel uncomfortable and soggy. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year! And a Tea Length Wedding Dress

Hello, readers! Happy New Year! I feel I am finally ready to continue blogging once more. There was actually a good reason I disappeared last year…

Yup! I got married! It is crazy how planning a wedding consumes your whole life. The wedding turned out amazing and I am so happy with my new husband.

The dress I wore was Justin Alexander 8706

It was definitely my dream dress, but I sure had to work hard to find it! I must have gone to every bridal store within 50 miles of my house. Nothing was what I was looking for. Given, I had very strict requirements; no strapless and had to be tea length or could be altered to be tea length. Such a thing didn’t seem to exist! They were all strapless mermaid gowns. It got so bad I was working with my sewing instructor on how to make my own gown. That stressed me to the limit. I just couldn’t do it. Then my mom found the Justin Alexander dress online and we drove an hour away to the only store near us that carries that brand. They didn’t have it in the store to try on. That was the dress though and we ordered it. Yup, I never tried on my wedding dress before I bought it. We were super lucky as it fit perfectly with no alterations needed. Well, it fit when we got it. By the time the wedding came around I had lost so much weight from stress it was a little big. Fortunately, it wasn’t strapless so it didn’t matter at all.

The wedding was small. We had about 50 people, which was just right for me. I’ve always dreamed of a small wedding. The ceremony was held in a little chapel in the morning with the sun shining in through the lovely stained glass. The reception was at a pretty golf club down the road where we served brunch. My husband and I love breakfast foods. Can’t go wrong with french toast and cinnamon rolls! Everything went perfectly. The only complaint I had was that the chapel was far too warm. The poor boys in their black tuxes were burning. Fortunately, the ceremony wasn’t long and we were off to the reception in no time.

People keep asking me how it is to be married. It’s really hard to answer. You just can’t imagine how different your life is after getting married. Laundry seems to have multiplied 10 fold. There’s always something that needs doing; dishes, grocery shopping, cleaning, work, etc. Yet, there is nothing like the wonderful feeling of waking up next to your best friend. 

Since it’s the New Year, let’s see how I did on my resolutions for 2014.
  • Complete my Victorian corset - Yes! It turned out lovely. I never made a blog post on it, but I did post a picture on my tumblr here. It needs some work, but I am more than pleased with it for my first corset.
  • Complete my steampunk bustle skirt - Nope. I got it all cut out, but no matter what needle I used, my taffeta fabric would snag and run. So I gave up
  • Sign up for a sewing class in the Fall semester - I did do this. I signed up for pattern drafting, but with the wedding being in the fall I was so busy I had to drop the class before even beginning.
  • Wear a costume to Comicon - Nope. Comicon was super lame this year as well. Big disappointment. There weren’t even any lolita panels!
  • Exercise at least twice a week - Not at all! Strangely enough, lost a whole lot of weight due to stress though. Not exactly healthy…
  • Blog twice a month - Yeah… no on this one as well.
  • Learn how to use a serger - *sigh* This one I’m really disappointed in myself to say I have yet to use my serger. It still sits, never been used. I just did not have time this year.
One out of seven. Oops!

This year, my blog will be a little different. While I still like lolita, I just don’t really have any interest in trying to wear it anymore. I will still reblog plenty of classic lolita outfits on my tumblr if anyone is interested. Thus, Commercially Alternative will become a sewing blog for my outfits and costumes. It makes me a little sad to say, I had hope Commercially Alternative would be the site I longed for when I first got into lolita. A place that would find good commercial patterns for lolita use, and give instructions on how to alter them. However, I still want to blog about my growing skill in sewing. I hope you all stick with me! 

My goals for 2015

  • Complete a 50s style dress - I got a fluffy light pink Malco Modes 582 petticoat for Christmas this year! It really needs a dress to go with it.
  • Complete an Italian Renaissance dress - Probably not going to be historically accurate, but it’s something I would like to try.
  • Blog twice a month - I hope to accomplish this by planning out my projects better so I have something to right about without huge dry spells
  • Exercise twice a week - Got to get healthy! I have been eating nothing but fudge and eggnog since the wedding.
  • Complete 3 additional garments - to be determined
  • Learn how to use a serger