An evening-wear Huipil – #therefashioners2018

This is my third blog post relating to my Refashioner competition entry. Not my final post yet!… I know… there is loads, it was way to much to write as one blog post.

I was determined to make the best use of the materials I used for my main entry. Ideas popped up for all the left overs very quickly, I wanted to get them all done by the competition close date. If I hadn’t pushed myself to meet the deadline they may well have stayed in the dreaded unfinished box for …EVER!!

The result of my mega push is an entire party ready wardrobe that has cost me around £68. (Feeling slightly smug – bring on Christmas!!) I did a conservative tally up of the items I made based on regular high street shop prices. I think I would have had to spend in the region of £500 to buy everything I’ve made. Though given that I used pure silk and pure wool fabrics it would probably have cost a fair bit more.

My main entry for the Refashioners competition was inspired by the Mexican artist and style icon Frida Kahlo. My motivation for using her as inspiration stemmed from visiting the V&A exhibition. After my visit I researched more about her clothing and Mexican clothing in general. Traditional Mexican garments from Frida’s era were not tailored, rather assembled from squares and rectangles with texture and pattern being crucially important.

The Huipil is a traditional Mexican garment constructed from one, two or three rectangles. Generally sleeveless and varying in length, most commonly waist length and usually heavily decorated with embroidery or a woven design.

This shape bought to mind a project I wrote a while ago for the Sewing Directory – A simple rectangular shift dress. This is a ‘no’ pattern project based on your body measurements. I love this dress and since making it I have made others and wear them all the time. It seemed an ideal design to continue my mini Frida Kahlo collection.

Even though you don’t need a pattern for this dress, I did make one as I find it much easier to use than referring back to measurements every time I make it. It is however literally a rectangle with a slight shape at the neck. For this version I added extra width at the shoulder and reduced the width at the hem to create a more triangular shape.

You can’t go wrong with the obligatory little black dress, its a wardrobe stable. One I needed to update as my current version has a full skirt – something I have recently stopped wanting to wear. I love this simple understated shape much more. Finding this vintage ethnic statement necklace was the icing on the cake. A perfect pairing for my Frida theme I think!

Wanting to add a bit of interest to the shape without going down the route of more embroidery, I sketched out shaped side vents and this ‘V’cut out at the back neck. I decided to line the dress, always my preferred option. It is an easy way to get a neat finish inside and outside as well as adding an extra bit of body to the dress.

Generally with this shape I completely bag out the neck and armholes, closing the side seams afterwards. With the addition of the back neck band I needed to hand stitch the armhole lining to the armhole edge this time.

I opted against the shaped side vents with very little fabric to spare at this point, not to mention lack of time!

I found this lovely big sparkly button in my box of buttons to complete the back neck.

With the last few usable remains of the sari I made a simple clutch bag. I drafted the pattern based on the construction of the Emmaline necessary clutch wallet. Lots of my customers have been making this wallet recently in sewing classes, it is so clever and looks great. I loved the idea of using the same technique to create an elongated evening clutch shape.

I didn’t have time to test run the bag shape so I decided to just go for it. I used a piece of the ornate end of the black sari for the bag flap and the slightly damaged piece of plain black silk for the body of the bag. I managed to shoe horn a little hole in the fabric into one of the creases at the side so it wasn’t on show. I used more of the green sari to line it.

I’m happy and pretty sure this is my new little black dress for some time to come.


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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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