Sabrina, checked and tested!

Remember Sabrina Duncan? She was my favourite Charlie’s Angel. She was the leader, the rebellious one. Not the one who spent any amount of time on her flicks. Nor ever to be heard complaining about a broken fingernail and her martial arts skills were unrivalled and unhampered by flares. So cool.

What’s that got to do with the price of fish you may well ask… Well this is my Sabrina dress. This is By Hand London’s latest lady and my new go to dress. Not named in honour of my Sabrina as far as I know but in a roundabout way she led the slightly unorthodox approach to this dress.

Sabrina dress in kensington

When I was asked if I’d like to pattern-test this one it was a no-brainer. Not only was the dress named after one of my childhood heroines, it had princess seams that presented a perfect project to utilise some of that inspiration that I sucked from the JPG exhibition. A clash of the Tartans!

Not anywhere near as edgy as JPG himself but I love it all the same.
A great chance to kick start the Autumn wardrobe too.

Minerva kindly supplied the fabric and I knew exactly where I was heading to search for the cloth in question. I’d been trawling recently and had seen these two tartans together. Blackwatch and Royal Stewart – such a great contrast that had to work.

Incidentally this is a poly viscose blend. Apparent from the prewash that future laundering of this dress would be a breeze; Hardly creases; A joy to iron. In fact if hung up to dry properly you could almost get away with not ironing at all.

bhl sabrina dress kensington station

I have a few nitpicky personal fitting issues to sort, namely a sway back adjustment and since studying the photos, I think there is some excess in the upper bust. Even though I made a muslin – I was never going to cut right into that fabulous fabric without testing the waters first!– I didn’t pay proper attention to a perfect fit. Plus its quite tricky when you are up late on your own and don’t have eyes in the back of your head. So with that aside, I made this dress straight from the packet. from one size, no adjustments.

It does fray, this fabric, especially when over handled. But given how the seams are pressed sideways, trimmed and overlocked seams were defo the way forward.

You may well ask why I would want to take on the added pressure of pattern-testing. After all, its not like I’ve got any spare time on my hands. Kids and all the outside school activities that get involved in, full time plus overtime self employedness, and contrary to the belief of my kids I don’t employ fairies to cook clean and bottle-wash and of course my night time activities are sewing! It’s not like it’s paid and its not like I’m given any lead time. And so I have even asked myself the same question. But in writing up this post the ‘why” suddenly presented itself to me in a duh sort of way.

sabrina dress stained glass

I have a list longer than both arms of projects I want to sew. Dresses, jackets, suits and hats. Mostly all of them are inspired by a ready-made pattern that have a ready-made image on the front or in the mag. It’s quite difficult to think outside the box when you are presented with something that fundamentally works already. But when you are given a computer generated line drawing or better still a rough fashion sketch of a dress that isn’t even invented yet, that’s more than enough to shake up all those creative juices and set my brain on fire with ideas, mostly above my station I might add. Leather, feathers, fur, gold lame. It doesn’t matter that most of these aren’t realised. They will be in time. It matters that I’m focussing on the textile rather than the design. That bit has already been done for me in this case by the By Hand London Ladies. So I can concentrate on what fabric will work best which will have greater structure, beautiful drape or sharp enough edges to carry it off properly. It excites me. That is all.

bhl sabrina dress phonebox

I don’t think I pushed the boat out too far with this dress but its a start on my journey of discovery. When I presented my Photoshopped image to Vicki at Minerva she was really excited to see the end result and said she’d never seen those two fabrics put together before.

I’d like to try some leather in place of the Blackwatch in the future but even a pvc might be as good. I think Ms Duncan is calling for some added tomboy!

The dress itself is such a flattering and simple shape. Nicely fitted to the waist and charmingly flared to just above the knee. Its also a great base for incorporating a collar, changing a neckline adding some bodice detail.

sabrina dress tube stn

It sews up real quick. Just be careful around the bust shape and watch out for puckers. That happened on my muslin.

It’s unlined. Just has a bodice facing which is all you need really for a medium weight woven. Doesn’t stick to my tights either!

The hem should be kept small to avoid gathering the excess in the flare and I would say that was the trickiest bit.

I kid you not its had more wears than any dress in my wardrobe and it’s the newest!

The above shots were taken in and around South Kensington and at the Victoria and Albert museum. That’s my favourite London hangout too by the way!

sabrina dress, victoria and albert museum

We were child- and fancy-free and popped in to see the Horst exhibition. Perfect inspiration for some glamourous dresses and stunningly lit fashion photography. Just Google Horst photographs for an eyeful of awesomness!

sabrina dress at the victoria and albert museum

Photography Daniel James Photographic
Shoes Lola Ramona
Handbag: FARA Ealing

Sewing Bloggers and Gaultier – The Perfect Rescue Remedy!

Anyone else bumbling through the school holidays? I’m quite exhausted to be honest. Don’t get me wrong. It’s lovely to see more of the children but trying to work full time and juggle child-share has had me a bit frayed around the edges this year. No holiday plans has meant no proper stretch of time off and though I’m quite used to that, I’m really not used to being so knacked that I don’t have head space to sew or even think about what I want to sew. Robbed of inspiration, I was. Until this weekend that is!

I’d almost clean forgotten that Roisin had planted a seed to go to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican on Saturday. So following a Tweeted nudge, I booked that there ticket along with a voucher for a cocktail. Well, it would have been rude not to!

The day began with an assembly and fashion parade of beautiful sewists at Goldhawk Road, of course. Emmie, Roisin, Amy, Marie, Katie, Jen and a lovely chance, fancy-seeing-you-here type meeting with Alana too! I usually arrive with a handbag and a relative amount of restraint when it comes to shopping in the Goldhawk Road. I live so near and my stash is so ridiculous that I can only justify purchases for immediate plans. And I actually have some of those, now, funnily enough.

Last week, Anne from Mercury Handmade so very sweetly sent me the August issue of Burda Style magazine which I tried so hard to get hold of and failed miserably. WHSmiths could offer no reason why they just weren’t delivered and then just when I’d given up Anne Tweeted that she had a spare and would I like one? What an absolute Angel! of course I would! And If that wasn’t enough she’d enclosed two gorgeous vintage patterns for me as a surprise. She is such a kind and generous lady and spookily knows exactly what I love.

vintage patterns tops

So I bought some fabric. I’m thinking the red leopard print and or the lighthouses for the wrap blouse. I’ll need something more drapey for the tie blouse. Oh, and I bought some shoe fabric, just because!!

fabric for blouse

The next three hours sped by and then we were en route to the Barbican for some divine inspiration!

We were greeted at the entrance by some iconic breton stripes and some freaky blinking mannequins! The live expressions were projected onto the faces of the otherwise static dummies. Quite distracting at first as we were more focussed on the faces than the garments. You get the idea from the pic below:

blinking mannequins


Gaulier crop top

But not for long. The outrageousness of the designs increased and the freaky faces paled into insignificance!

gaultier dogtooth allover

I shamefully realised how little I knew about this incredible man.

He was self-taught and got his foot in the fashion door by sending some of his sketches to Pierre Cardin. (Best I invest in a new Fashionary book!!) This exhibition starred 165 of his amazing garments spanning 40 years of his work

His very own first collection was released in 1976 and soon earned him the title ‘enfant terrible’ of French fashion. Street fashion was dominant throughout but the couture pieces were nonetheless exquisite and edgy at the same time.

I still have no idea why the man-skirt never took off. Teamed with some serious boots and those iconic stripes of course. Such a great look and one I’d be happy to wear today too!

Gaultier kilt

Of course there was a fine selection of construction corsetry and some incredible leather cage designs that I would so love to replicate if I even knew where to start!

Gaultier leather cage

I just love the shape of this coat and I marvelled at the gazillion green feathers that incidentally look as though they were hot-glued to the lining. Kind of puts the couture classification into question, don’t ya think? Or is that allowed?

Gaultier feathered coat

And check out this ‘pinstripe’ dress, which on closer inspection transpires to have thousands of mother of pearl buttons sandwiched in between pleats and encrusting the cuffs!

Gaultier mother pearl button dress

Gaultier button cuffs

I love a bit of contradiction. A spot of rule breaking. Rebellion even! A bit Like here where recycled camo is patchworked to a ball gown, complete with fishtail and adorned with dripping glass beads. Perfect.

Gaultier camo ballgown

And a clash of the tartans. Proper rule breaking. Love it!

gaultier tartan clash

But my favourite piece which has stuck in my head and clearly wont leave until I blatantly copy it, is the yellow tartan jacket with its wonderful sculpted lampshade silhouette. I was so desperate to touch but just knew I’d set of an alarm so I gently encouraged Roisin to stick her head up and see what was going on. She kindly obliged but alas the lining hid all!

gaultier yellow tartan jacketWe loved the pan-scourer/tin-can jewellery. And a further use for all your perfume packaging! There was even a shiny tea-strainer on the belt!

Gaultier jewelery

Of course there was the famous cone corset for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour of 1990 and also the amazing nude sequinned suit modelled so beautifully by Naomi Campbell but I still haven’t learned to turn off my data roaming and so my stupid i-phone ran out of juice at the crucial exhibits!!

The exhibition reflected his genius talent and humour at the same time without dropping an ounce of style. Though humour was evident by his starring role in 90’s Eurotrash. I loved that!

Two floors and 165 garments examined and discussed, we made way to the Gin Joint. Yes that’s right. A bar purely dedicated to gin. In the same building, with a great view and a menu of gins longer than both my arms! We had time to kill, you see. At least half an hour before the Gaultier Bar opened and where our cocktail voucher was valid. But there were no complaints. Just lots of ooos and arrs and a table full of pretty coloured gins! So enamoured by this place, that we came straight back for more after our cocktail, for truffle mac cheese… and another gin, bien sûr!

And it can’t go unmentioned that I now have taken ownership of the best loyalty card evs!!

Gin Joint Loyalty card

Alas the last day for John Paul Gaultier at the London Barbican is today, 25th August so if you are London-based and not shaking your tail feathers at Notting Hill Carnival, I advise it as the best place to keep out of the rain today . I’m just so grateful for Roisin for giving us the heads up in time and organising such a wonderful day which has totally inspired me to get back on that sewing horse and do what I love most. Thank you lovely lady. Thank you Anne and thanks to all you gorgeous sewing bloggers who make me tick!!