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6 Tips for a great fit. Lesson #1.

Does a ‘great fit’ or ‘perfect fit’ leave you wondering what that really means in terms of your clothes? These days with most everything being ‘off the rack’ ‘ready to wear’ or ‘prêt-à-porter’ you may not be aware that your clothes don’t actually fit well at all. Even when special items are ‘custom made’ ‘made to measure’ or dressmaker made you could still be left wanting a great fit or perfect fit. So here are a few tips for things to watch out for. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but let’s start with these.

Example – Let’s assume that you don’t fit the typical fashion model profile or standard size. Actually most people don’t fit into a standard size perfectly, because sizes are determined by averaging a set of statistics by manufacturers.  (By the way, you are the perfect size and shape you were meant to be, so celebrate your curves! Go ahead and look the fabulous person you are.)

These 6 tips are for dresses, tops and skirts.

EHC FS 2016- Elise

EHC FS 2016- Elise (3)

EHC FS 2016- Elise (2)

  1. Enough fabric and ease across the bust line. No straining of fabric here.
  2. Waistline is cinched in at the right level. Notice that the waistline of the dress doesn’t present any horizontal buckling of superfluous fabric or diagonal wrinkling in the front, side, or back.
  3. Ease of fabric draping or flowing over the hip line, no stress or stretched out fabric here.
  4. The hemline is horizontally even from the floor front and back, even in stilettos.
  5. Sleeves are set in at the right directional angle. No two people’s arms hang the same way! Enough room at the sleeve cap, or top of the sleeve, no straining of fabric here either with ample room for freedom of movement.
  6. Fit across the shoulders from sleeve to sleeve is wide enough, ending just at the shoulder joint.  The problem is usually too wide (too much material) or too narrow (not enough material).

Again, these 6 tips are true for any figure, and true for dresses, tops and skirts. Next time we’ll look at some other examples of well fitting points.  Cheers! J

 

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Couture | Fashion & Philanthropy

It’s important to give back to the community and Ecole Holt Couture is fortunate to do this while sharing the art of couture and the work of our students in support of InspireProjectYYC.

This is the first year the event will benefit new-kid-on-the-block INSPIRE Project YYC. Started in 2012, by a group of Calgarian creatives, passionate about social justice, the Project funds organizations seeking to affect change in difficult areas. Their first recipient? Dare to Care, whose mission is to address the pervasive and crippling issue of bullying.

Step by Step  will focus on explaining what couture really is, how it is achieved, and why it matters and more importantly how it can change your outlook towards your fashion style!

Join us on November 13th, 2016 at Festival Hall in Calgary’s Inglewood community, hub of live music venues and is known as the one-stop shop for art fans, culture buffs, foodies, fashionistas, scrappy hippies, and hipsters.

 

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Couturier ‘String Theory’ – not just a Fable!

Most of the Students at Ecole Holt Couture have heard me tell a similar version of this Fable….

Once upon a time there was a very rich man and his wife spending some quality time together on their private south pacific island. Even with its remoteness it had every modern convenience. Solar panels for electricity, running water, and even 4G Internet access. Everything you could possibly need was there. A beautiful house, airstrip, dock, boat house, deep-sea fishing boat, and several guest cottages on its beaches.

He arrived following several strenuous business trips with his wife, who had completed a major shopping spree from Paris, Milan, London, to Tokyo. There was nothing that the couple could not buy. His wife had just procured lengths of the most elaborately hand-embroidered French silk, the softest Kashmir wool, the most luxurious Italian silk velvet, and the finest English worsted. The best that could be made, very expensive and all quite unique.

Because this man was also very generous he regularly invited friends and relatives to his island, but he also invited strangers from time to time to share in his good fortune. This time he invited three young, and very promising, fashion designers to the island as a reward for their contribution to one of the many charities he supported.

Each of the three individuals saw this opportunity differently. One was very ambitious and viewed each day as potential for new business and so brought an iPhone, laptop, latest look-book, and a few new design ideas to present, just in case. The other viewed this as a good time to get on with a project or two without distractions, and so managed to pack a compact sewing machine, sewing kit (thread, pins and scissors), and some new patterns but decided to investigate locally made materials on the island to experiment with. The third accepted this, as a time to relax and not worry about anything. To absorb, and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

While on the island, which was very tiny indeed, it became apparent just how remote it was from civilization. The owners of the island were very hospitable and made time to visit with each of their guests, making sure that everyone was quite comfortable. One night they invited the three young people to dinner at the big house. Nothing but the finest was offered, the freshest fish caught just hours earlier, the best quality vegetables and most exotic fruit flown in from the nearest islands, and the finest wines.

The conversation turned to each guest to find out what their hopes and aspirations were for the future. One was confident that someday they would become world famous, so that everyone would want to own one of their designs. The other was hopeful, that with experience and some help, they would be able to manufacture highly popular collections selling around the world. The third confessed to wanting to be creative every day, to being content, and wanting to make other people happy. The others all sniggered at the third’s response, and privately thought how impractical and unrealistic that would be.

Curiously, the rich man’s wife asked more questions about why this would be a considered career choice. After all, doesn’t one need a lot of money to be able to have everything one’s heart desires? “For instance, we have everything one could possibly want, a good income, good health, and access to the best of everything. This doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice of course”. All had to agree, and continued to enjoy a pleasant evening of good food, conversation and exchange of ideas.

Later, the rich man’s wife was delighted to show the three young people her exquisite fabric finds, knowing they would share in her excitement. As expected, all three were indeed thrilled. Also, as an almost instant reaction, they offered to design something for her using these fabrics. “Oh, but, I couldn’t just let anyone touch these precious fabrics, only someone with considerable experience”. They asked who she knew, that had such experience. “Well, I don’t really. I’m a bit hesitant about asking anyone!”

The first young designer offered to create the most fashion-forward designs, and would start on it straight away. The second, began to research the latest trends to present. Meanwhile, the third asked questions about what the rich man’s wife dreamed for herself, what were her requirements for the coming year, and what type of things she loves to wear. “This is all wonderful, but it still leaves the dilemma of who will make these amazing designs for me?”

Not to worry the first designer said, “I have some really good people behind me who will get it done right”, the second designer remarked, “I will make it myself, it won’t take long. I can usually run things up in a few hours, a couple of days at most!” The third’s reply was “I would love to make it for you, it will take some time. I want to make sure everything fits just right, and makes you look marvelous. Your fabrics will deserve the utmost attention, for the most part they will be hand-sewn”.

That night a tropical storm knocked out the 4G Internet access, the docks were damaged, and the airstrip was littered with debris from broken branches. Fuel supplies were so low that the generators couldn’t be run for more than just the bare essentials – such as pumping fresh water. Repairs would take some time.

The first designer conceded, “Well that pretty much finishes my plans, without the internet I can’t communicate with my team, my laptop battery is low and in need of recharging, but I can’t do it without electricity”. The second designer complained that without power the sewing machine was useless, and it was too late to order patterns on-line. The third said, “No problem. Let’s get started”.

In wonderment, the rich man’s wife asked how this is possible without any equipment! “I have my hands, I never travel without my emergency sewing kit, and if you have a ball of string somewhere, that’s all I need.” And so proceeded to take her measurements with the ball of string, sketched some ideas on paper for her approval, and drafted the patterns on old bed sheets. After assembling the mock-up designs, they were fitted exactly to her figure. Then used as the pattern to cut her prized fabrics.

During the following days, the rich man’s wife witnessed how the garments were being created piece by piece, all with the greatest care and attention to detail. Every pattern was skillfully matched at each seam. The garments were fitted a few times making sure they were comfortable and flattering to her figure. Then – one day the clothes were complete! “Oh my, I have never in my life seen such craftsmanship, such beauty, but mostly I have not felt so comfortable in my clothes, and felt so good about the way they make me look! I could see your joy while you worked, and why you love creating such wonderful things! How can I thank you enough for what you have done for me?” The young Couturier replied, “The opportunity you’ve given me has been priceless! Here is a detailed invoice of what you have received in exchange for my expertise.” The rich man’s wife never again wanted what everyone else could buy! Do you?

(Not The End) Just The Beginning – Cheers J

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Slow fashion – its your prerogative!

389x421To be happily successful in couture and tailoring you must become a master maker and this takes time as does developing your clientele. Gaining sufficient experience and always paying a great deal of attention to detail, wherein no element is compromised in a garment’s making, cannot be learned in a fast-track approach to learning, which is the reason why EHC’s programs are longer than typical career college programs.

Because the essence of couture and tailoring is to create a masterpiece every time, as with fine art, it is through making a multitude of discriminating choices. Understanding the intricacies of construction techniques and their application complexities is cultivated by experience. Pushing beyond your current level of creativity needs time to mature. In couture and tailoring a single garment is made to fit the client’s exacting requirements and style. As with an original work of art, cannot not be reproduced on mass and would defeat the whole purpose. In Couture and Tailoring, no garment is made on speculation; but by prearranged sale or by agreement.

Financial success at any level is basically what is left over after expenses and other related costs. In creating one item whatever profit is attained very quickly, which could either be acceptable or unacceptable. It is noteworthy to point out artists and artisans have a reputation for disliking putting themselves forward selling their expertise and generally do better in complementary business arrangements wherein they can entrust some time-consuming marketing duties into the hands of someone else. However, handing over this kind of content control to someone else is not easy – finding someone who understands your vision and can speak in your voice – is exceptional.

If profit margins turnout to be lower for ‘makers’, meaning artists, artisans, and crafts people the compensation is greater in career satisfaction (or high job satisfaction). We also have somewhat longer careers than usual, working well beyond retirement age because we love to be creative and productive at any age. To be a successful maker the secret is in being authentic. Staying creatively involved, having control over our work, maintaining high work ethics, keeping our natural and business environments healthy and sustaining our emotional and spiritual wellbeing is essential to and naturally high on our priority list in life.

A word about sustainability – defined as genuine attitudes and practices rather than ‘green-washed’ attempts or hyped up pitches to create an illusion of sustainability. More and more influential people in the industry are supporting what is called ‘slow fashion’, a term coined by Kate Fletcher (Centre for Sustainable Fashion, UK, 2007). The core of a movement dedicated to righteous ways of being fashionable. Slow fashion encompasses all initiatives taken towards using bio-degradable raw materials, recycled garments, buying from fair-trade organization and promoting slow consumption.

We all have choices, and no one way is right for everyone. But, being able to make conscious and informed choices shouldn’t be drudgery, it is a luxury, it should be our prerogative. This may also appeal to you! Cheers! J. IMG_3096

 

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Tools of the trade

389x421We all love the latest in gadgetry or digital technology which most of us want to possess even if we don’t actually use! If you’ve ever observed an artist or trades person using their tools at work, you’ll have noticed that the tools are very simple or very special but, very well used. Painters use the same brushes over and over until the bristles have all fallen out or have broken off. Cabinet makers use the same planes, chisels and mallets that perhaps they’ve inherited or started out with. Hair stylists use their favorite scissors and combs. You get the picture.It is no different with dressmakers, tailors and couturiers. Once we’ve invested in the best tools we can afford, we use them constantly, and stay with us forever if we can help it.

A few examples of tools I mean are scissors, thimbles, sewing needles, yard sticks and tape measures. Tape measures drape around your neck, get rolled up and unrolled, the printed markings become worn, and they gain a few nicks along the edges, but getting a new one is one is just one big hassle after breaking-in the one you’ve been using properly. Yard sticks are good for setting hems, marking lines, and swatting flies when necessary.
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Sewing needles sometimes become visibly plate bare in spots along the shafts, and eventually do get replaced. But to lose one is irritating bordering on disaster and finding one that became lost is a near-on victory! Using cheap needles is total waste of time because they only bend and break.
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Thimbles actually become a comfortable extension of your middle finger. I’ve used very few in my career, only replacing two that acquired punctures in the tops from repeated needle pressure, and it takes a long time to warm up to a new one so I guard mine closely. They need not be pretty, but good quality metal is essential. In the studio, holding up your middle finger is not a rude gesture – it means ‘have you seen where I left my thimble?’ without speaking.
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Scissors and shears become your pride and joy when you’ve invested in high quality tempered steal. Purchasing them really hurts at the time, as they’re rather expensive items – which no one else will understand the value of, and hard to justify when you’re just starting out. Good ones will last 40 to 50 years and longer if you take good care of them!
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We don’t use special pattern drafting tools either, just the basics. Straight edge or T-square, triangle, pencil and eraser. We go through proper tailors chalk like crazy. Pens are banned from the studio. We use ordinary un-waxed wide width white butchers paper for drafting, only using tailors card for patterns we plan to keep and reuse – this 92lb card stock is sold in rolls and is extremely heavy and somewhat expensive.

Wonderful gadgets, fancy sewing aids and swanky drafting tools are a boon for sewing hobbyists. DIY stores offer a specialized tool for every conceivable do-it or fix-it job you might ever do at home. As appealing or impressive as they might look they’re not necessarily manufactured for the professionals. However, it seems everyone wants them and they do look terrific on the collector’s shelf!
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Is creative expression your living heritage?

Why is it that my love for creating and sewing stuck with me in this time of plenty? In this time of embarrassingly rampant consumerism when you can afford to buy almost anything – why bother!
The greatest satisfaction I get is from things that I’ve created myself, paying close attention to their purpose, quality and design. I appreciate and love to see beautiful things that are made with great skill, passion and attention to detail by other creators.
It may be from an unbroken history of skills transference that my mother, grandmother, and aunts all learned. To take care of themselves and their families included sewing, and the usual cooking and cleaning. Very importantly, they also learned how to manage money equally as well as how to manage with very little money.
Toys were crafted from available bits and pieces that not only entertained once completed, but enjoyment was extracted from the making of them. More than just quilts, other household furnishings too were often made – drapery, cushions, slipcovers and kitchen linens. And, wool and linen fabrics were home spun and woven in our family.
Clothing was sewn for rapidly growing children, if not for the ‘grown-ups’ of the family’s work and casual wear. Although, going further back into history, in my grandparent’s day, all adult members of the family wore clothing made by its female members, or the family’s tailor.
My ancestors had beautiful well-crafted clothing for every season. Nothing like the perpetuated images of amateurish, ill fitting, home-made sewing disasters that quickly comes to mind from TV programs such as ‘I Love Lucy’ of my childhood. Far from it! Fabrics were incredibly durable yes, but they were also wonderful lustrous wools and silks, furs and leather, linen and crisp cottons that stood up to wear and tear.
Everyone made an effort to look their best all the time, wherever they went; they took pride in their appearance. Clothing fitted extremely well, and was mostly alterable especially for children as they grew. New garments were re-purposed from ones that had a previous life, taken apart and redesigned. Handed down dresses and gowns with laces and embroidery, and suits with handmade buttons were all precious.
There was also a sharing of labour pool. Those that had become expert in one area, would trade with others of differing skills. It was personal. It was holistic, productive and meaningful.
Growing up with an appreciation for and practicing the skills I’ve learned from my mother who has always been a professional couturier, gives me immense satisfaction. To share them with young people wanting to learn, who haven’t had my advantage, is what living heritage is all about – the future.

“…here is to the future!” – J

hand beading on silk

hand beading on silk

quilted matlasse collar

quilted matlasse collar

hand twisted wool edging detail

hand twisted wool edging detail

hand made buttons

hand made buttons

french lace over silk

french lace over silk

 

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