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Viva La Vida – #therefashioners2018 #inspiredby

Phew!…Here is my last post about my Refashioner entry 2018. Squeezed in just before the deadline!

I chose Frida Kahlo and one of her outfits as my inspiration after visiting the exhibition at the V&A. Her style is iconic and has had an undeniable influence on fashion and trend in recent years. Aside from her wonderful style and clothing I learned much more about her as a person from visiting the exhibition. Her short life was cursed with health problems, despite this she stood strongly for what she believed and really didn’t seem to let anything stop her doing what she was doing. She had strong political views and  produced powerful art that expressed her life and gave us insight into the pain she suffered. No matter how you interpret her and her work the combination of her style, clothing, art, passion and belief has left a remarkable legacy which I think is inspiring on so many different levels.

I needed to draw inspiration from Frida’s determination to create the outfit I planned and to use the remaining fabrics before the competition deadline. Choosing to use old saris perhaps was not the wisest (given the short amount of time) as this is a huge amount of fabric to work with. Plans made, I began work. I underestimated just how difficult the embroidery would be for the top for my main entry. Instead of evenings meandering through the project while sitting on the sofa watching TV I had to sit focused with extra light and a ruler, carefully measuring every few minutes to keep the design in some sort of alignment.  I ended up devoting all my Sundays in September to embroidery. Working with black fabric is always tricky, another thing I hadn’t given much thought to at the start.  The dim light of late evenings made it hard to work on the black garments. I shoehorned half an hour here and half an hour there during the daylight hours as often as I could. To top it off I made a bit of a mess of my green silk dress and had a lot more work to do than I should have had if I had prepared properly. Nevertheless mission accomplished and I am really happy with my Frida Kahlo inspired capsule collection.

This top was by far the easiest to make it was an obvious choice. The black sari I used for the trousers for my main entry had a beautiful embroidered and appliqued border at one end with tassels finishing the edge. I wrote in my last post about the huipil style which was commonly worn in Mexico during Frida Kahlo’s era. This seemed the perfect plan for this stunning panel.

I collected all my plans together for each project before cutting anything in fear that I would run out of fabric. It was a good job I did!

When I was thinking about this part of the sari for making the top I noted how heavy it was. Usually if making a simple top like this I would use bias tape around the neck and possibly the armhole edges. However I decided an interfaced neck facing in this case would be better to ensure the neck edge didn’t sag under the weight of the embellishment. It meant cutting into more precious fabric to create facings. A juggling act begun. 

In the end the only way I could fit trousers, dress and this top into the fabric was by paneling the back of the top. I managed to get the majority of the back cut from the plain part of the sari. There was a small symmetrical piece of the decorative panel left, enough to make this centre lower back insert. I used the edge of the panel as the edge of the top as it has this decorative stitched edge with a mini ruffle. The same decorative stitching featured on one edge of the plain part of the sari. I made two panels for each side to fill the gaps. The edging design is slightly different in size on the plain part of the sari making it impossible to match perfectly. I played around with other configurations, in the end this seemed the best option.

The sides are stitched together with open seams which made it easy to turn a single hem around the armhole following the seam line.

I created wide vents near the hem separating the front tasseled edge from the back embroidered edge.

This is the remaining fabric from the black sari. Despite discovering a few small holes I managed to cut around them and only produce this amount of waste. I have kept the remains from all the projects to one side to see if I can squeeze a few more mini projects from them. For now this is the end.

Thank you for the inspiration Frida.

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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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