Jung Misun and Im Seonoc in Couture Korea and ticket giveaway!

Hi, I had to return to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco to take a closer look at the work by Jung Misun and Im Seonoc in the exhibit Couture Korea, which opened last month. During my first visit, my phone ran out of power by the time I got to the room devoted to their work so I went back to take more photos. (You can read my first post here.)

Three rooms are devoted to this special exhibit, which the curator encourages you to view in chronological order, starting with the historical reconstructions of hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, and concluding with the work of Im and Jung.

The work featured in this room was a yearlong collaboration between each designer and the Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation. Im and Jung were challenged to reinterpret Korean historical fashion for life today. They both agreed that hanbok wasn’t very comfortable wear and they each chose fabrics that would be comfortable to wear.

Jung Misun

Jung Misun’s fashion line, Nohke, has been featured in Seoul Fashion Week. Here’s link to Vogue’s recent coverage of Jung’s 2018 Spring collection. (Note: Vogue spells her name Mi Sun Jung.) And here’s a link to a May 2017 Post Magazine interview with the 33-year-old designer.

As part of the Arumjigi collaboration, Jung designed this beautiful wool knit dress.

Jung Misun - wool blend knit dress - Couture Korea exhibit at Asian Art Museum

I love the details in the top. You can really see the elements of traditional Korean women’s clothing in the wrap around the bust (see my earlier post on this exhibit for examples). I think this design is best suited for a small bust.

Jung Misun - Couture Korea exhibit at Asian Art Museum

I like the layers and unique sleeve details in this dress by Jung Misun.

Jung Misum dress - Couture Korea exhibit at Asian Art Museum

The leather belt it attached to part of the top.

Jung Misun dress detail - Couture Korea exhibit at Asian Art Museum

This leather tie is a dramatic detail that echoes traditional garments.

Jung Misun - dress detail Couture Korea exhibit at Asian Art Museum

The delicate layer of organza is a nice contrast to the leather.

Jung Misun dress detail - Couture Korea exhibit at Asian Art Museum

These traditional women’s jackets are in the exhibit. The leather tie of Jung’s design is similar to the tie on these jackets.

Traditional Korean women's jackets - Couture Korea - Asian Art Museum

Im Seonoc

Founder of the PARTsPARTs fashion brand, Im Seonoc uses neoprene (scuba) in her designs, which you can see here, along with an interview and a YouTube video.

Im also used scuba fabric to create this jacket and skirt for the Arumjigi collabroation. (Please excuse the glare on the glass.)

Im Seonoc - Couture Korea exhibit at Asian Art Museum

This is a side view. The lines on this skirt are very interesting, aren’t they? I like that curving line.

Im Seonoc - scuba skirt detail - Couture Korea exhibit at Asian Art Museum

Take a look at Im’s reinterpretation of a man’s outer robe, also using scuba.

Im Seonok - Couture Korea exhibit at Asian Art Museum

You can see the lines of the traditional men’s robes in her design. Here’s a reconstruction of a garment from the late 1600s/early 1700s that’s in the exhibit.

Man's robe with slide slits - reconstruction of garment (late 1600s to early 1700s) - Couture Korea - Asian Art Museum

Be sure to take a good look at all the traditional garments before you get to this room. Then you can really appreciate each designers’ unique reinterpretation.

There are six garments in this room, three by each designer. I wish there was more of their work in the exhibit. Maybe they only made three garments for the collaboration with Arumjigi. Still I would have liked to see their other work as well.

I’ve highlighted four of their garments. You’ll need to see the exhibit to see the other two. And lucky for you, I have two tickets I’m giving away! To enter, just comment below that you’d like to see the exhibit. I’ll pick two winners at random next Tuesday, December 12! This exhibit is up through February 4, 2018.

Couture Korea exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

Couture Korea – Fashion at the Asian Art Museum

Couture Korea - Dress possibly worn by Empress Min - fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

Hi, a new fashion exhibit called Couture Korea, is now open at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Organized by the museum and the Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation in Seoul, it features recreations of traditional Korean garments from centuries past as well as contemporary Korean fashion designs. It’s a fascinating look at Korean fashion and an unexpected venue to see fashion.

The exhibit takes up three rooms in the museum, with the largest room devoted to the traditional garments. The next room features the work of Korean fashion pioneer Jin Teok and Karl Lagerfeld. What is German designer Lagerfeld doing in an exhibit of Korean fashion? Well, when Chanel’s creative director designed his 2016 Cruise Collection, he was inspired by the Korean motifs and objects.

But before I show you photos from that part of Couture Korea, let me say a bit more about the traditional garments.

You may be familiar with hanbok, which refers to Korean traditional clothing, both women and men’s garments. I confess that I thought hanbok referred to the traditional women’s clothes. I didn’t realize it referred to all traditional Korean clothes regardless of gender.

The beautiful dress above was recreated using this photograph, which was on the description placard for this dress. I would have liked to get up close to the dress to look at the seams and pleats but the dress is behind glass.

Couture Korea - photo of Korean woman, possibly Empress Min

Please excuse the glare on the photos I took. Unfortunately all of the costumes are behind glass, which seems odd when many of them are recreations, not ancient garments. When I saw the Manus x Machina exhibit last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, most of the exhibit was not behind glass. The fashion mannequins were on raised platforms, which limited how close you could get to the garments. (You can see my posts about that show here, here and here.)

But this is a minor quibble because as the director of the Asian Art Museum stated at the press conference, this is the very first time Korean fashion has been presented on this scale. The Arumjigi Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving Korean culture, has done an amazing job with the reconstructed garments.

This ceremonial robe is from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910, yes, this monarchy lasted for five centuries!) as are many of the historical reconstructions in the exhibit.

Couture Korea - women's ceremonial robe from Jeosan dynasty - recreation at Asian Art Museum fashion exhibit

Some of the exhibit’s labels include swatches of fabric, which is great. I love to touch fabric. This silk was rather stiff so I assume it’s an organza. It would have been nice if they had provided more fabric details, such as screen printed silk organza. But they just say “silk with enamel and glass clasp.” This is the year of the sleeve, so these sleeves are right on trend. 😉

Couture Korea - exhibit - Asian Art Museum

There are many layers to traditional clothes – multiple drawers and skirts are worn together. Here was even a slide show demonstrating the many layers. Here’s layer 3 – a third set of drawers! How did they go to the bathroom?

Layers of womans ensemble - Couture Korea, Asian Art Museum - CSews

This is a women’s ensemble that has been reconstructed…

Couture Korea - women's ensemble 1700s - fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum

… from this painting.

Couture Korea - Asian Art Museum - painting used to reconstruct Korean dress

Here are a few more highlights from the traditional part of the exhibit.

This is a man’s leather coat, which, according to the label, is shorter in back to accommodate sitting on a horse. You can’t see the back of the coat in the exhibit because it’s behind glass and the wall behind it is just a couple of feet away.

My photo of this coat had a ton of glare and I couldn’t get all of the sleeves in it. The sleeves are really long. This sheepskin coat is a reconstruction from a deerskin coat was worn by General Nam Iheung (1576-1627). According to the Couture Korea exhibit catalog, the general’s coat was “thought to have been worn under armor, due to the bloodstains and arrow holes that appear in its leather.”

Man's coat reconstruction from late 16th to early 17the century garment, sheepskin - Couture Korea - fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum
Photo: Asian Art Museum

Sheepskin is quite soft and supple, as I discovered from touching the swatch on display.

Sheepskin sample - Couture Korea - Asian Art Museum - CSews

I love this 1500s ensemble.

Womens ensemble - 1500s reconstruction - Couture Korea fashion exbhibit- Asian Art Museum

There are many other traditional garments in Couture Korea, including these cropped women’s jackets (jeogori). They are very cropped (hemmed just below the bust) all in one large room.

Womens jackets jeogori)- Couture Korea - fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum - CSews

A stunning embroidered wedding bridal robe was also on display.

Bridal robe - reconstruction based on Joseon dynasty garment - Couture Korea, fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum - CSews

Here’s a detail of the embroidery.

Detail of embroidered bridal robe - reconstruction based on Joseon dynasty garment - Couture Korea, fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum - CSews

Couture Korea – contemporary fashion

This room features videos projected on the wall of some of Jin Teok’s fashion shows, along with some of her striking designs from the 1990s to the 2000s. I wish there was more biographical information on Jin Teok. The exhibit catalog says that in the 1990s she was “active in Paris” and that she “participated in several international fashion shows,” which is rather vague.

Jin Teok - Korean fashion designer - Couture Korea - fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum CSews

Here’s a detail of that lovely pleat, which features an image from a 19th century Korean painting, “Woman Putting on Cosmetics.”

Dress detail - Jin Teok - Korean fashion designer - Couture Korea - fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum - CSews

Here’s another dramatic ensemble by Jin Teok. It features beautiful embroidery.

Dress by Jin Teok - Couture Korea, fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum - CSews

Jin Teok shares the room with Karl Lagerfeld’s Korean inspired collection for Chanel. Here’s one of his designs in the 2016 Cruise collection.

Chanel 2016 Cruise collection - Karl Lagerfeld - Couture Korea, fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum - CSews

This particular ensemble was inspired by hanbok and the Korean wrapping cloth, bojagi. It’s a handmade square cloth used to wrap food or to carry things. They are often made of scraps of silk and can be colorful. Here’s a vintage bojagi in the exhibit made around 1950-60. How’s that for inspiration?

Bojagi - Korean wrapping cloth - Couture Korea, Asian Art Museum - CSews

Here’s a detail of the jacket. You can see the Chanel logo on the buttons and the pink Petersham ribbon.

Chanel 2016 Cruise collection - Couture Korea, fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, CSews

The next generation of Couture Korea

The last (and smallest) room of Couture Korea is devoted to two Korean fashion designers from the younger generation, Im Seonoc, the creative director for zero-waste fashion line PARTsPARTs (see this YouTube video of her 2016 collection) and Jung Misun, who launched her fashion line Nohke in 2009. (Read this May 2017 interview with Jung Misun and see her Spring/Summer 2017 collection on Vogue’s website here).

My phone ran out of power when I got to this room. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention so these photos are courtesy of the Asian Art Museum.

This neoprene ensemble is by Im Seonoc. I like the elegance of the cropped jacket. It would have been nice to mix up the chronology in the exhibit and put some of the traditional garments next to the contemporary ones. You can certainly see the influence of hanbok in the modern designs.

Neoprene ensemble by Im Seonoc - Couture Korea - fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum - CSews
Photo: Asian Art Museum

This vest is Im Seonoc’s neoprene interpretation of the traditional Korean vest – baeja.

Modern baeja by Im Seonoc - Couture Korea - fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum - CSews
Photo: Asian Art Museum

I like Jung Misun’s jersey dress. You can see echoes of hanbok in her designs, too They are a modern twist on the traditional.

Wool knit dress by Jung Misun - Couture Korea, fashion exhibit at the Asian Art Museum
Photo: Asian Art Museum

A grey wool knit dress was also in the exhibit. It has a long skirt and a cropped top with a tie that wrapped around the bust. It looked great on the mannequin but it would only suit figures with small busts unless you were to move the wrap to a lower position. You’ll have to see the show to see it in person!

These are just a few highlights from the show. It’s a rare opportunity to see historical and contemporary Korean fashions. The show is on display until February 4, 2018. But don’t delay. I usually wait until the last minute and then the exhibit space is crowded and you can’t get a good look at the designs. Go early and then see it again. You can also see the exhibit on Philippine art and a site-specific installation by Lui Jianhua on the second floor.

More flight attendant uniforms – and astronauts!

I decided to write another post about the Fashion in Flight exhibit on the history of flight attendant uniforms that was on display at the San Francisco International Airport – note the past tense – was. The exhibit closed last Sunday. I feel bad that I didn’t get around to blogging about it until the week before the exhibit closed (read my earlier post here). So here are a few more photos, plus a look at spacesuits because so many flight attendant uniforms of the 1960s were inspired by the astronauts of that era.

Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas
Braniff International Airways hostess in uniform by Emilio Pucci (1965)
Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas

This ensemble is part of a collection of designs designed by Emilio Pucci for Braniff International Airways. He called it “Gemini IV,” after NASA’s Gemini program, which was the precursor to the Apollo program that sent astronauts to the moon. Clearly this plastic helmet was a takeoff on astronaut headgear. It was worn for publicity photos and when greeting passengers before they got on a flight. Braniff liked to call its flight attendants “air hostesses.” (You can see more photos of this uniform in my previous post about Fashion in Flight. Note: The nice photos are courtesy of the SFO Museum or the airlines that loaned them the images or uniforms. The photos with glare are the ones I took at the exhibit. All the uniforms were behind glass and it was difficult to take a good photos.)

This flight attendant uniform made me curious about astronaut outfits so I decided to look for photos of NASA spacesuits on its website and Flickr page. (NASA is a U.S. government agency so their images don’t have copyright restrictions. Check out NASA’s Flickr album Astronauts.)

Here’s the very first group of U.S. astronauts, known as the Mercury 7. They were part of Project Mercury, NASA’s first program to get a man into space.

On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its first astronaut class, the Mercury 7. Front row, left to right: Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. Photo credit: NASA
On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its first astronaut class, the Mercury 7. Front row, left to right: Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. “Deke” Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.
Photo credit: NASA

This publicity photo was taken in 1959 but they didn’t make it into space until 1961. It took all that time for NASA to figure out how to get a manned capsule into space and then several more months to determines how to orbit the Earth and land safely. One thing that this group of astronauts had in common with the flight attendants of the era is that they had to be of a certain weight and height because of the size of the capsule. (Check out this article “Women in the Skies,” on flight attendants, excerpted in Ms. magazine.)

Speaking of space flight, I’ve been reading Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures (affiliate link here), which is the inspiration for the film of the same title. If you read the book or see the film, you will be inspired by the stories of the incredible African-American women mathematicians behind the complex theoretical math calculations that helped make the space voyage possible. If you haven’t seen the film Hidden Figures, go see it!

Now check out this flight attendant uniform from the 1960s – note the silver fabric. Unfortunately, I didn’t note which airline had this uniform when I took this photo last month. The fabric has that astronaut sheen to it. 😉

1960s flight uniform

Here’s a spacesuit from 1966, part of the Gemini program. The neck makes me think of the 1960s funnel necks and more recent patterns such as  the Tilly and the Buttons Coco Top + Dress.

Gemini-Titan 4 (GT-4) Prime flight crew, Ed White and Jim McDivitt, at Pad 19. May 29, 1966
Gemini-Titan 4 Prime flight crew, Ed White and Jim McDivitt, at Pad 19. May 29, 1966 (NASA on the Commons, Flickr)

I found a fun video on the NASA website about spacesuits. After you watch the video, which is introduced by an avatar (you can skip the animated intro), you’ll see six versions of NASA spacesuits, from the shiny silver of the Mercury missions to the orange “pumpkin suit” and the most recent one designed for future space exploration.

Here’s the 1968 spacesuit design for the Apollo astronauts. Note the various valves on the torso of the suits.

Apollo 8 crew is photographed posing on a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) simulator in their space suits. From left to right are: James A. Lovell Jr., William A. Anders, and Frank Borman. November 22, 1968 (NASA on the Commons)
Apollo 8 crew is photographed posing on a Kennedy Space Center simulator in their space suits. From left to right are: James A. Lovell Jr., William A. Anders, and Frank Borman. November 22, 1968 (NASA on the Commons, Flickr)

These ladies have a space-age look to them, too. I see spacesuit touches in their necklines and the round pocket opening seems inspired by the valves on the spacesuits, eh? This photo was also in the SFO Museum’s Fashion in Flight photo album for the exhibit.

Union de Transport Aériens stewardesses in uniforms by Pierre Cardin 1968 photograph Air France Collection.DR/Air France Museum Collection.
Union de Transport Aériens stewardesses in uniforms by Pierre Cardin (1968) photograph Air France Collection.DR/Air France Museum Collection.

The front round pocket is more of a design element than any practical use. I don’t know if you can fit your entire hand in it unless you have small hands. Here’s a look at the actual uniform in the exhibit (sorry for the glare).

Union de Transport Aériens - uniform designed by Pierre Cardin - 1968
Union de Transport Aériens – uniform designed by Pierre Cardin – 1968

Here’s a closer shot I took of the pocket. (Note the interesting topstitching at the waist. It’s quite a distance from the seam, isn’t it?)

Union de Transport Aériens - uniform designed by Pierre Cardin - 1968

Here’s the last of the 1960s photos I took. This 1968 polyester flight attendant uniform designed by Oleg Cassini for Air West and has a bit of “Starfleet Command” in it, according to the exhibit. I can definitely see that. (The original Star Trek series was on the air from 1966 to 1969.)

Air West 1968 uniform designed by Oleg Cassini
Air West 1968 uniform designed by Oleg Cassini

I hope you enjoyed this foray into 1960s fashion and astronauts!

You can see more photos of the flight attendant uniforms in Fashion in Flight on the SFO Museum website here.

Fashion in Flight at SFO – a history of airline uniforms

Braniff International Airways hostesses in uniforms by Emilio Pucci 1965 Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas [Fashion in Flight exhibit at SFO]
Braniff International Airways hostesses in uniforms by Emilio Pucci 1965 (Photo credit: Braniff International Public Relations Archives, History of Aviation Collection, UT-Dallas)

The exhibit “Fashion in Flight: A History of Airline Uniform Design,” is  currently on display at the SFO Museum in the international terminal of San Francisco International Airport until Sunday, January 8 (go to Departures, Level 3, pre-security). If you live in the Bay Area, it’s worth a trip to the airport to see this free show, which showcases uniforms from the 1930s to the present, including many created by fashion designers. My favorite uniforms were from the 1940s to the ’60s.

If you can’t get there, you can see some of the uniforms on the SFO Museum’s website here and in this post. I saw this exhibit last month with a Bay Area Sewists member and took a ton of photos. But it was tough to photograph most of the uniforms because they were in display cases behind glass and there was a lot of glare to contend with, as you can see in the photo below.

Fashion in Flight - outerwear

I was able to avoid some of the glare by putting my phone directly on the glass but that limited what got in the shot because I was so close to the mannequins. The ensembles are: TWA Poppy Orange duster raincoat and head covering; Braniff International Airways Gemini IV uniform, overcoat and bubble space helmet by Emilio Pucci; and Hughes Airwest hooded cloak in Sundance Yellow and Universe Blue.

Here’s my photo of the green coat and space bubble hat, taken with my phone on the glass. According to the info in the case, Emilio Pucci designed this outfit for Braniff International Airways. The coat is in “reversible absinthe and apricot” and has a “welted ring collar to meet the bubble space helmet,” which was made from Perspex thermoplastic acrylic. Apparently it was called a “rain dome” and its purpose was “to protect the wearer’s hairdo.”

Braniff International Airways Gemini IV uniform, overcoat and bubble space helmet,
Braniff International Airways overcoat and bubble space helmet designed by Emilio Pucci (1965)

However, the helmet was fragile and not exactly easy to store so it was only worn to greet passengers before they entered the plane and for publicity purposes, such as the first photo of this post. Look closely, the woman on the far right is wearing this coat and helmet.

I’m just going to include a few of my photos and the rest will be courtesy of the SFO Museum. You’ll know which ones they are because they will include photo credit information in the caption from the museum, plus they will be so much better than my photos!

This is one of the uniforms from the 1930s, which also had a hat to go with it. Sorry you can’t see all of the hat. It’s similar to the Transcontinental & Western Air uniform of 1939 worn by the ladies in the photo just below this one. I didn’t note the info on this uniform but it’s likely another version of the 1939 uniform but with welt pockets.

1930s airline uniform
Transcontinental & Western Air uniform

 

Transcontinental & Western Air hostesses 1939 Photo credit: SFO Museum/ TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.
Transcontinental & Western Air hostesses 1939
(Photo credit: SFO Museum/ TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.)

Here’s a lovely “air hostess” uniform from the 1940s and comes with a matching hat. Transcontinental & Western Air was the precursor to Trans World Airlines, better known as TWA. (As you can tell, this photo is from the SFO Museum.)

Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer 1944 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc. Photo credit: SFO Museum - Fashion in Flight exhibit at SFO
Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer 1944
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

Here’s a closer look at that jacket! Check out the princess seams, buttonholes and fish-eye waist darts.

Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer 1944 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc. Photo credit: SFO Museum
Transcontinental & Western Air hostess uniform by Howard Greer (1944)
Collection of SFO Museum
Gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.
Photo credit: SFO Museum

The 1950s also had some very nice tailoring. Here’s a 1955 TWA uniform designed by Oleg Cassini.

Trans World Airlines hostess uniform by Oleg Cassini 1955 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc. Photo credit: SFO Museum
Trans World Airlines hostess uniform by Oleg Cassini 1955
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of TWA Clipped Wings International, Inc.
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

And no exhibit on flight attendant uniforms would be complete without one from Pam Am. There are lovely details on this uniform in “Fashion in Flight.”

Pan American World Airways stewardess uniform by Don Loper 1959 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of Jane Luna Euler/Beatrice H. Springer/John J. Dunne Photo credit: SFO Museum
Pan American World Airways stewardess uniform by Don Loper 1959
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of Jane Luna Euler/Beatrice H. Springer/John J. Dunne
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

The ’60s had some wildly varying looks. The early ’60s still had some of the elegance of the 1950s. I like this Air France uniform by Christian Dior. I love cropped jackets and A-line skirts.

Air France uniform by Christian Dior (courtesy of Air France)
Air France uniform by Christian Dior (1963)

And then uniforms got a bit more colorful. Check out those boots!

Braniff International Airways hostess uniform by Emilio Pucci 1966 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of Sandra C. A. Thomas in memory of Anne Karin Walker Photo credit: SFO Museum [Fashion in Flight exhibit at SFO]
Braniff International Airways hostess uniform by Emilio Pucci 1966
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of Sandra C. A. Thomas in memory of Anne Karin Walker
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)
Northwest Orient Airlines 1967)
Northwest Orient Airlines 1967

 

United Air Lines stewardess uniform by Jean Louis (1968)
United Air Lines stewardess uniform by Jean Louis (1968)

As you may know, Jean Louis was a Hollywood costume designer. You’ll see his name in many film credits, oftentimes the credit will be “Gowns by Jean Louis.” He’s famous for designing Rita Hayworth’s black strapless gown in the 1946 film Gilda. And he was the costume designer for classic films such as From Here to Eternity (1953) and Bell, Book and Candle (1958).

United Air Lines stewardess uniform by Jean Louis 1968 Fashionaire, a Division of Hart, Schaffner & Marx Hat by Mae Hanauer Collection of SFO Museum Gift of United Airlines Historical Foundation Hat insignia: Gift of Georgia Panter Nielsen Photo credit: SFO Museum
United Air Lines stewardess uniform by Jean Louis 1968
Fashionaire, a Division of Hart, Schaffner & Marx
Hat by Mae Hanauer, Collection of SFO Museum, gift of United Airlines Historical Foundation, hat insignia: Gift of Georgia Panter Nielsen
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

I love this uniform. Doesn’t she look happy to wear it?

United Air Lines stewardess in uniform by Jean Louis 1968 Photo credit: United Airlines Archive
United Air Lines stewardess in uniform by Jean Louis 1968
(Photo credit: United Airlines Archive)

This Air France uniform was designed by Balenciaga.

Air France stewardess uniform by Cristóbal Balenciaga 1969 Courtesy of Air France Photo credit: SFO Museum
Air France stewardess uniform by Cristóbal Balenciaga 1969
Courtesy of Air France
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

Uniforms seemed to get more casual in the ’70s. This is a photo I took of the photo on display and of the uniform. The jackets are made from synthetic leather and came in pale pink, red and powder blue. I was surprised to see such casual jackets in “Fashion in Flight.”

Union de Transport Aeeriens uniform designed by André Courréges 1973)
Union de Transport Aeeriens uniform designed by André Courréges (1973)

This is a fun micro mini-dress that was worn with red shorts.

Pacific Southwest Airlines 1973 - micro mini dress worn with red shorts
Pacific Southwest Airlines 1973 – micro mini dress

The 1980s were not so interesting. Check out this uniform designed by Yves St. Laurent for Quantas, which seems rather dowdy and dated now.

Qantas Airways female flight attendant uniform by Yves Saint Laurent 1986 Collection of SFO Museum Gift of Suzanne de Monchaux Photo credit: SFO Museum
Qantas Airways female flight attendant uniform by Yves Saint Laurent 1986
Collection of SFO Museum, gift of Suzanne de Monchaux
(Photo credit: SFO Museum)

I’ll end with a look at some of the shoes on display. These were the official shoes worn with various uniforms.

Shoes worn by flight attendants - Fashion in Flight exhibit - SFO Museum

The black shoe is an oxford from the 1030s. The spectator pumps are from the 1950s. No. 2 is a TWA shoe from 1955 and No. 3 was worn by United Air Lines stewardesses in 1957. The kitten heel shoe is from the 1980s and was worn with the Eastern Air Lines uniform.

What’s your favorite fashion decade?

If you do make it out to SFO to see “Fashion in Flight,” I recommend looking at the work chronologically. The older uniforms are in several display cases in the international terminal. Then there’s a museum room with more recent uniforms on display.

Pan American World Airways stewardess uniform by Don Loper 1959 Collection of SFO Museum, gift of Jane Luna Euler/Beatrice H. Springer/John J. Dunne (Photo credit: SFO Museum)

Pleats featured in the Manus x Machina exhibit

Hi, yes, this is my third post about the Manus x Machina exhibit that was on display earlier this year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was fortunate to be in New York after the show was extended through early September. Why so many posts? Well, I took plenty of photos and my first two posts would be been extremely long if I tried to include all of them. As you may know, this stunning exhibit was a feast for the eyes. This particular post will focus on some of the garments with pleats.

I love the look of pleats but I don’t have very many pleated garments for two reasons: 1.) I don’t like pressing them (so tedious!) and it’s quite expensive to dry clean a garment with pleats; and 2.) I didn’t think pleats looked good on my figure. But I was only thinking of accordion pleats that started at the waist. Then I discovered the inverted pleats on the Deer and Doe Chardon Skirt. I’ve made four versions of that skirt. (Here’s a link to my linen Chardon.)

I hope you enjoy perusing the photos.

Manus x Machina - House of Dior - Rafe Simons - spring/summer 2015 ensemble - haute couture - hand-pleated, machine sewn white silk organdy hand-embroidered with silk grosgrain ribbon; yellow wool silk crepe

This House of Dior haute couture ensemble designed by Rafe Simons for the spring/summer 2015 collection showcase hand-pleated silk organdy skirts. I love how the pleats in this version begin below the hips. Very flattering. I couldn’t get enough of them.

Manus x Machina - House of Dior - Rafe Simons - spring/summer 2015 ensemble - haute couture - hand-pleated, machine sewn white silk organdy hand-embroidered with silk grosgrain ribbon; yellow wool silk crepe

Just look at the tiny pleats – all made by hand!

There was even a fascinating video showing how the pleats were made. It was on a small screen near the Dior mannequins. I found a longer version of the video by Refinery 29 on YouTube. The first two minutes of the video show the various parts of the skirt – hand dyeing the silk grosgrain ribbons, machine sewing the ribbons to the silk organdy, and then the fabric goes to Gérard Lognon, an atelier that creates various pleats for the fashion houses. The arrival at the pleater (plisseur) starts at 1:09 and you can see how they pleat the fabric. If you continue watching, you can also see runway models wearing these garments at 3:29. They are really full skirts on the models. There must be wearing layer and layers of organdy!

Here’s another detailed shot of the pleats. I zoomed in with my phone to get more detail.

Manus x Machina - House of Dior - Rafe Simons - spring/summer 2015 ensemble - haute couture - hand-pleated, machine sewn white silk organdy hand-embroidered with silk grosgrain ribbon

I really like these other versions of the pleated ensembles, too.

Manus x Machina - House of Dior - Rafe Simons - spring/summer 2015 ensemble - haute couture - hand-pleated, machine sewn white silk organdy hand-embroidered with silk grosgrain ribbon; black and green wool silk crepe

Of course, these weren’t the only pleated garments on display. No fashion exhibit with pleats would be complete without the 1920s silk charmeuse gowns designed by Mario Fortuny, an artist, architect, lighting designer, and creator of the now famous Fortuny pleats. He even patented his pleating process, which remains a mystery to this day.

Manus x Machina - Mario Fortuny pleated gowns - 1920s

Here’s a closer look at one of the Fortuny gowns. The pleats are very tiny, which distinguishes them from other pleated garments.

Manus x Machina - Fortuny pleated gown, 1920s haute couture

These white silk jersey evening gowns designed by Madame Gres feature hand-gathered and -stitched pleats.

Manus x Machina - Madame Gres evening gowns - hand-gathered and -stitched pleats

And then there were Issey Miyake’s striking designs. On the left are what the polyester-linen garments look like when flat.

Manus x Machina - Issey Miyake, spring/summer 1990, pleated top

Aren’t they amazing?

Manus x Machina - Issey Miyake, spring/summer 1990, pleated dress

It’s hard to believe that these flat pieces of fabric become such a dramatic silhouettes when worn.

Manus x Machina - Issey Miyake, spring/summer 1990, pleated dress

Here’s the back view of the circle dress. It’s dramatic and elegant. I wonder what happens when you sit down?

Manus x Machina - Issey Miyake, spring/summer 1990, pleated dress - back view

And here’s the last photo of this post – a dramatic wool and polyurethane cape designed by Junya Watanabe for the Commes de Garçons fall/winter 2015/2016 collection.

Manus x Machina - Commes des Garcons by Junya Watanabe - fall/winter 2015-16 wool and polyurethane jersey cape

What a range of pleats – from the 1920s to this century! Hopefully these photos give you an idea of the scope of this exhibit. I really liked the juxtaposition of garments from different eras placed next to each other so you could see certain motifs or design details through the decades. I think I have enough photos for one or two more Manus x Machina posts. So don’t be surprised to see another post…

Manus x Machina - House of Dior by Rafe Simons - white silk organdy hand-pleated skirts, haute couture

Manus x Machina - pleated garments - House of Dior, Issey Miyake and Fortuny - pleats

My trip to New York – Manus x Machina, Mood Fabrics and more

Last month I visited my family on the East Coast. I was able to make a quick trip to New York while I was there. Here’s a brief summary of my trip, with many photos.

My first stop was to Mood Fabrics where I searched for lightweight denim and bought these two to make a trouser jeans.

Denim fabric - Mood Fabrics - New York

The I wandered across the street to Sposabella Lace, which carries all sorts of bridal laces, and drooled over some stunning embroidered lace that was draped over the counter.

Embroidered lace - Sposabella Lace - NYC

Then I asked them if they had any netting, which isn’t easy to find. They had several colors. I bought a yard of navy and black netting, which I’ll add to a hat at some point.

Netting from Sposabella Lace - New York - CSews.com

Then I went uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view the stunning “Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology” exhibit, which “explores how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.” It was a fascinating showcase of jaw-dropping handcrafted and machine-made fashion.

I was truly surprised by how compelling this exhibit was. Vintage fashion was displayed next to 21st century designs, revealing the similarities and differences between the past and the present. I couldn’t stop taking photos with my phone. Here are a few highlights.

This 1958 Dior dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent is called L’Eléphant Blanc – or the White Elephant. It’s made of silk, metallic thread, glass, and plastic and was sewn by machine. This lovely confection has five layers of tulle. Behind the dress was a video that slowly panned up the dress, showing the beading in detail.

Manus x Machina - L'Eléphant Blanc - Dior - designed by Yves Saint Laurent - 1958

This is a 2010 Chanel dress and cape designed by Karl Lagerfeld. The dress is made of pink silk chiffon and charmeuse, hand-embroidered with pink silk satin flowers, pearls, and pink-frosted crystals, hand-finished. The cape is made from 1,300 hand-pieced pink silk satin flowers by Lemarié with pink frosted crystals. Wow.

Manus x Machina - Chanel dress - 2010 - Karl Lagerfeld - pink silk chiffon and charmeuse, hand-embroidered with pink silk satin flowers, pearls, and pink-frosted crystals, hand-finished. Cape - 1,300 hand-pieced pink silk sating flowers by Lemarié with pink frosted crystals

Notice how the flowers are of varying sizes? Here’s the bottom half of this cape. I love it. This could be a fun – albeit time-consuming – way to use fabric scraps. 😉

Manus x Machina - Chanel cape - 1,300 hand-pieced pink silk satin flowers by Lemarié with pink frosted crystals

Check out this laser-cut patent-leather dress by Iris van Herpen.

Manus x Machina - Laser-cut patent leather dress - Iris van Herpen

And look at this autumn/winter haute couture 2015-16 Chanel dress by Karl Lagerfeld. It’s made from black silk tulle with hand-embroidery by Lemarié with hand-glued and stitched black ostrich feathers.

Manus x Machina - Chanel - haute couture - black silk tulle, hand-embroidered by Lemarié with hand-glued and stitched black ostrich feathersblack

Lemarié has come up twice in this post so in case you were wondering who is Lemarié, it is a specialized workshop in France, founded more than 130 years ago, designing “feather and flower creations for luxury fashion houses.” They also do other techniques such as smocking, pleats, and ruffles.

The pleats on this ensemble are amazing. There was a video near these Dior garments that you could watch, showing the ribbon being sewn to the white silk organdy and how the fabric was hand pleated.

Manus x Machina - Dior pleated dress - Rafe Simons - spring/summer 2015 haute couture - hand-pleated, machine sewn, hand embroidered, piece-dyed grosgrain ribbon

I’ll need to do another post with more photos from this exhibit.

After the Met, I went back downtown to meet two sewcialists for lunch – Olgalyn, who designs and sells knit fabrics for her company O! Jolly! and teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Yoshi, who I “met” via Instagram. She’s @garmentgirl on IG, Olgalyn is @ojolly, and I’m @csews. Here we are at Rin Thai on 23rd near 8th Avenue.

Yoshi, Chuleenan and Olgalyn at Rin Thai

It was a really fun trip! I’ll post more photos from Manus x Machina soon…

Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology exhibit at the Met

High Style – the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection

Hi,

If you sew and you live in Manhattan, you have very likely seen the world-famous Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection – now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Luckily for us Bay Area folks, some of this stunning collections in the High Style exhibit is now on display until July 19, at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco.

High Style - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

I went to see this show last Sunday with some members of the Bay Area Sewists meetup group. (This was a meetup suggested by a member and then as the group’s organizer, I arranged for group tickets.)

There was gowns and garments aplenty but the exhibit also features hats, shoes, and a few pieces of jewelry. Here are some of the photos I took of the clothes. I’ll do a separate post on millinery and shoes. (The lighting was dim and no flash photograph was allowed but my new iPhone 6 did a pretty good job, considering the conditions.)

The crepe gown (1944) on the left is one by Madame Eta Hentz (see more of her designs on the Met’s website here). I can’t remember which designer created this gown on the right (sorry!), but I love the elegant lines.

Evening gown - Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

The details on back of this dress are so lovely.

High Style - evening gown

Evening gown detail - Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

I adore this Arnold Scaasi dress (1961). Who wouldn’t want this in your closet? (Well, that skirt may take up half the closet so maybe not.) I wonder how many yards it took to make this dress? (If you want to see more of his designs, check out the Scaasi search results on the Met’s website.)

Polka dot dress - Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

This Norman Norell silk organza blouse (1970-71) really makes use of crispness of the fabric. I love the way it looks but I wouldn’t wear it while eating. It would be hard not to get the sleeves dirty. Heheh. (See more of his designs here.)

Silk organza blouse -  Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

I love the cropped jacket and beading detail on this Elsa Schiparelli ensemble from 1940 (see more of her designs here).

 Elsa Schiaparelli evening gown - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

Fantastic use of stripes in this silk crepe and chiffon James Galanos gown (ca. 1955) (see more of his work here).

James Galanos striped gown - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

Various ensembles (1940s and 1950s) by women designers, including Americans Vera Maxwell (grey wool dress with jacket from 1958, second from left) and Claire McCardell,?her ensemble from 1946 (to right of the Maxwell dress), and Hungarian-born Eta Hentz, the cream-and-black dress (1944). (Check out this New York Times article on McCardell.)

American designers - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

Charles James – wow – that’s about all you can say about his stunning “Clover Leaf” ball gown – a remarkable feat of design and engineering. It was displayed behind glass – thus the reflective glare in some of my shots – but it did allow you to get closer to the dress. (See a better photo of the dress from the Met’s website.)

Charles James - clover dress -  Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

Bodice detail…

Charles James - clover leaf gown - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection- csews.com

… and the back, which is amazing – look at this stunning use of lace!

Charles James - clover leaf gown - back detail - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection- csews.com

Sooooo beautiful!

Charles James - clover leaf gown - back detail - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection- csews.com

If you want to learn more about Charles James, watch this video, which also includes some animation about the Clover Leaf ball gown at about 1:13. These animated videos deconstructing the dress are also on view next to his dresses. It was fascinating to see the separate pattern pieces and the layers that went into the dress. I learned from the video that James first began working as a milliner and then branched out to make women’s garments.

Last year the Met presented an exhibit devoted to him – Charles James: Beyond Fashion.

James was definitely the star of this show – with many gowns in this exhibit, including muslins. This is a muslin of a black-and-white version of the Clover Leaf gown. You can see faint pencil mark on the bottom left “leaf.” How’s that for a wearable muslin? Heheh.

Charles James clover dress muslin - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

You can also see more pencil marks on this detail.

Charles James clover leaf dress muslin detail - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

If you live in the Bay Area and haven’t seen this show yet, go as soon as you can. It will only get more crowded as the weeks go by and it’ll be harder to see everything and take photos. Stayed tuned for my post on the hats and shoes in this show.

Follow on Bloglovin

 

 

Happy Sewing – Fashion Calendar Giveaway!

2015 Fashion calendar giveaway - csews.com

On January 1, Pegasus Books in the East Bay holds its annual calendar sale. I’ve been going to it for years. Calendars are 3 for $9.99 or 1 for $3.99. Last year I got a wall calendar which had great photos of hats for nearly every day of the year. This year I spied this lovely 2015 Fashion calendar featuring clothes and accessories from the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Emilio Pucci- costume institute - csews.com
Evening Dress, Emilio Pucci, 1966

 

Oh, the outfits! The shoes! The hats! Full page photos on every other page! This will be my sewing inspiration calendar for the year.

Bonnie Cashin-1955 - evening ensemble - csews.com
Evening Ensemble, Bonnie Chashin, 1955

 

I was so excited to see this calendar that I got an extra one to give away to one lucky person. This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents. Sorry international folks – shipping/customs costs are too high!

To enter, please answer one (or) both of the following question(s) in the comments area below by Monday, January 5, 11:59 pm, Pacific (California time): What inspires you to sew? What are your sewing resolutions this year?

I’ll pick a winner on Tues., January 6 and ship it when I get your address. Happy Sewing! May all your seams be straight and your fabric sew true. 😉

 

Fashions of the 1920s – Paperdolls and More

Several weeks ago at Shakespeare & Co. used bookstore,I found three slim books of paper dolls, each devoted to a decade of fashion – the 1920s, ’30s, and ’50s. Each book was only $3.50 so I snapped them all up. There were part of someone’s private collection, each book has two dolls with 15 costumes per doll. Nothing had been cut out and all the books were in fairly good shape, only a little discoloration on one. Here’s a brief look at the fashions of the 1920s.

Fashions of the 20s.cover

On the cover are fashions (from left) by Worth (1928), Schiaparelli (1928), and Chanel (1928). The outfits inside are essentially illustrations of evening gowns and dresses, frocks, and various ensembles by those designers as well as Beer, Callot, Caret, Cheruit, Drecoll, Lavin, Lelong, Louiseboulanger,  Molyneux, Paguin, Patou, Poiret, Redfern, Rochas, and Vionnet. The designers are all identified by last name in the book.

The introduction notes that this particular era was one of social and political upheaval. For example, in 1920, the 19th Amendment passed and women finally won the right to vote. (However, don’t forget that African Americans were consistently denied the right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.)

F. Scott Fitzgerald published the novel The Great Gatsby in 1925. The story takes place in 1922. I read it in high school (and it’s still in print) but I confess I don’t recall much of the story line anymore  And I’m not a big fan of the director Baz Luhrman so I don’t have any urge to see the movie, The Great Gatsby, except on cable. And if I see it on cable, it’ll just be for the costumes and hats. 😉

The ’20s was the Jazz Age and the era of the flapper – a woman with bobbed hair who wore a loose-fitting knee-length dress that revealed her arms and she (gasp!) openly wore makeup.

Louiseboulanger evening dress, Chanel suit
Louiseboulanger evening gown and wrap (1925), Chanel coat and dress ensemble (1926)

The fashions of the time reflected these tremendous political and cultural changes. Women’s clothing was less restrictive. They cut their hair. Hemlines went up. You can find a succinct summary of this era on this page “Fashions in the 1920s,” from a website devoted to the A & L Tirocchi Dressmakers Project in Providence, Rhode Island. I’ll quote a couple of sentences here:

The straight-line chemise topped by the close-fitting cloche hat became the uniform of the day. Women “bobbed,” or cut, their hair short to fit under the popular hats, a radical move in the beginning, but standard by the end of the decade.

Coco Chanel was one of the fashion of this era. The artist and designer Erte is also emblematic of this period. You can see some of his work on the website Erte.com (don’t forget to view his alphabet collection.) I really loved his work in college and bought a print of one of his fashion illustrations of a lady in silver. Among his many talents, Erte worked as a fashion illustrator as well as a costume and set designer for the stage and screen.

I love the design details on 1920s clothes – beautiful necklines and drape as well as lovely Art Deco elements. Plus I’ve always been a big fan of the cloche hat, a popular style back then and still worn by plenty of women today. I love the way it frames the face. The red suit by Chanel (at right) features a cloche hat.

The evening gown on the left is by Louiseboulanger (yes, she spelled it that way, as one word). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a fabulous fashion collection, has some of this French designer’s work. The Met also has photos of her creations in their collection online. Check out this link to view the five pieces in their collection. Be sure to look at the suit from 1932. There are several photos, including multiple views of the skirt, blouse, and jacket.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t fine much about her online but here’s a very brief blurb on Louiseboulanger on the website of the Museum at FIT, which has two of her designs, an evening dress and an ensemble.

Here are a few more images from the paperdoll book. If you want to see some fascinating photos and fashion plates, check out Victoriana Magazine‘s page: 1920s Fashion. What do you think of fashions of the ’20s?

The dolls - the one on the left is wearing a corset and the other, a swimsuite
The dolls – the one on the left is wearing a corset by Rente (1924) and the other, a swimsuit by Tom Tye (1924)

 

Vionnet and Caret
Summer frock by Vionnet (1923) and an evening gown by Caret (1923)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening gown by Beer (1920) and "Palm Beach" outfit by Worth (1921)
Evening gown by Beer (1920) and “Palm Beach” outfit by Worth

 

 

 

 

 

How Jamie Lau Launched Her Fashion Career

Jamie Lau in one of her designs, and a dress featured in the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern
Jamie Lau in one of her designs, and a dress featured in the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern

Jamie Lau, co-author of the new book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, learned to sew on a sewing machine in 2007. Back then the self-described public policy wonk was working full-time for California’s judicial branch as a senior research analyst in San Francisco. (For more on the book, read my interview “Q&A with Jamie Lau….”)

“I worked primarily in family law doing research on child support and all the other things associated with that,” Jamie explains. “There was a federal program to provide services to self-represented litigants throughout the state.” She launched and implemented a statewide database to collect statistics on people who used the program.

After a friend gave her a sewing machine for her birthday in 2008, Jamie eventually began making reversible tote bags, which she made for friends and soon began selling bags and reusable fabric covered notebooks, yoga mat totes, and checkbook and passport covers at Indie Mart and Renegade Craft Fair.

In January 2010 Jamie began squeezing in as many fashion and textile classes as she could, beginning with courses at City College of San Francisco and Apparel Arts, and spending nearly every night and weekend in class or doing homework. “It was really hard doing that and working full-time,” says Jamie. Sometimes she’d spend her lunch breaks at the main library in San Francisco doing her pattern-making homework or gathering fabric swatches for a textile class.

In addition, whenever she traveled for vacation, Jamie took more classes and made a point of visiting local fabric stores. She took a textile design class in Portland called Summer of Making, at Pacific Northwest College of Art with Heather Ross.During one vacation, she participated in a week-long intensive fashion class at the London College of Fashion. All told she took about eight different classes at multiple schools that year.

After immersing herself in fashion classes, Jamie soon realized that she seriously wanted a career change but she didn’t want to go back to school full-time. After all, she already had a master’s degree in social work and public policy from Columbia University in New York and she didn’t want to invest more money into being a student again. So she decided to take a leave of absence from her job and find an apprenticeship to get more design experience. Clearly she’s an extraordinarily focused and talented individual. But her success didn’t happen overnight. Here’s what happened after she left San Francisco to embark on her fashion adventure. 

Chuleenan Svetvilas: How did you end up interning at BurdaStyle?

Jamie Lau: I learned about BurdaStyle through my friend Karen, who’s an architect in San Francisco. She came to my booth at Renegade Craft Fair one year and was wearing this dress with a nice sweetheart neckline and a gathered waist. I said, “Oh wow, where did you get that dress?” Karen told me she made it and I didn’t even know Karen sewed! She said it was a free member pattern on BurdaStyle and that I totally needed to check out the site. I probably went on the website that same night after the event.

I found their contact information online and submitted a very professional cover letter to talk about my transferable skills. [I mentioned that] I didn’t go to school for fashion traditionally, but that I had all these other great skills and knew how to sew. Someone wrote back to me about scheduling an interview and I was then offered an unpaid internship doing creative and editorial work. I took a leave of absence from my job and began my apprenticeship in November 2010. I learned how to sew in September 2007 and just kept teaching myself, but only started taking formal classes on a regular basis in January 2010, and then I started working at BurdaStyle. I was really excited to go back to New York and I knew that it would be really hard to find more opportunities like this in San Francisco. I thought, well time’s ticking and I just need to know if this is for me.

At BurdaStyle, I had to tile a pattern together on my very first day and start sewing a pinafore dress. It was another member pattern and within a week it was featured on the website’s homepage, which was really cool.

CS: You were a full-time volunteer intern?

JL: Yes, I was doing it full-time. I was like, I just have to do this, and saved up since I wasn’t getting a paycheck. I started teaching sewing and draping classes at the Textile Art Center a couple months later, which came naturally to me.

CS:How long were you interning at BurdaStyle?

JL: I interned from November 2010 to early May 2011 when the book project, BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, began and started working as a freelancer for BurdaStyle. I then came on full-time in February 2012 as the site’s editorial and e-commerce manager. Everything just kept evolving and I ended up with basically every single responsibility imaginable for this book. It was a super DIY effort. Everything from administrative stuff to casting the models to writing the instructions and picking out the fabric and designing the looks. (For more about the book, read my interview with Jamie here.)

CS: What do your parents think about your career change?

JL: I think they were shocked at first. They were like, “You have such a great job, you work for the state. Why? Why would you want to leave?” I was only 27 years old at the time and wanted to pursue my creative passion, so I decided to take a risk.

Then, when I was mentioned in the New York Times last year, they said, “Oh, you got into the New York Times! Twice in one year! That’s amazing.”

CS: Did you ever think you would end up in fashion?

JL: I always liked to shop. Even when I was in middle school, I didn’t want to wear a uniform. I wanted disposable income in high school so I could shop and buy things that were unique in order to express myself, which is why I always had a part-time job.

Even when I was working in public policy, I loved to shop. It was retail therapy, but that starts to get expensive after a while.

I had never really tried to do fashion illustrations. I didn’t study fashion in college. But then everything just kind of happened and I realized that I could be good at this even though I didn’t go to school for it. All you really have to do is be diligent and serious about it, work hard, but also have fun with it.

I sew almost every day. Except now during the holidays when I’m not quite near a sewing machine. It’s just part of my life – whether I’m teaching or writing this book or I’m writing about fashion.

CS: How do you find the time these days to design and sew for Jamie Lau Designs?

JL: Most of my friends know that I don’t really sleep very much. I don’t even drink coffee, I’m a tea drinker. I’ve just always been an energetic workaholic. Even in high school I was working while being a student with all these extracurricular activities. I even graduated from college a year early. I’m just always going, going, going.

I work full-time at BurdaStyle, but I also teach at 3rd Ward and Textile Arts Center. My design stuff happens as soon as I get home. On the weekends I’m basically sewing – whether it’s sewing a project that I’m making for BurdaStyle or doing a custom order for somebody or getting ready for a show.

The fabric selection process is my favorite part of sewing. I really like Japanese textiles because the prints are very interesting to me. I’m really into metallic brocades right now. I made a dress to wear to every single book launch event and I was sewing down to the last minute. I had my Brooklyn book launch party on a Thursday and was flying out at 7:30 a.m the next day to come to San Francisco for Renegade Craft Fair and more book promo events. I basically stayed up all night sewing because I had to finish one last dress for the San Francisco book launch party. My mom has a machine, but she doesn’t have a serger and I also didn’t want to have to bring my whole sewing kit with me. So I finished everything except for the hem right before my flight and when I did my book signing in Santa Cruz the day before the Britex event, I borrowed their machine (and even brought my thread and bobbin pre-wound) to put on the finishing touches.

CS: How would you describe your style?

JL: My style is very clean and minimal. I like very geometric, architectural things. For example, I like the work of ’60s designers such as Pierre Cardin and Courrèges, as well as ‘50s Balenciaga. It’s all very clean and I like that you can see the lines.

CS: Very distinct shapes.

JL: Yes, but even if it appears to be just a simple silhouette, you can still do it in a really interesting fabric or make some minor changes and treat it like a palette – like an art piece. I also really love color and  prints. I don’t really wear too much black, but if it’s something black then I would like it to have a little bit of texture.

There’s also a nice elegance to a lot of the ’50s cuts. While researching the ’30s and the ’40s for BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, I discovered some amazing stuff and found some really cool silhouettes, too. Like the peplum – it’s totally back now, you see it everywhere.

 

 

Sewing Books at the Library: Improv Sewing, Sew Retro and More

I love the public library. It’s a great source of free information for everyone. It’s also a wonderful place to check out new sewing books. Right now I’ve got five books out, four from the Berkeley Public Library and one from the San Francisco Public Library.

I flip through the books to see how many things I’d like to make and whether I’d learn any new techniques and ideas. Oftentimes I stick post-it notes on the pages of things I’d like to make or ideas that inspire me. If there are a lot of post-its, then I’ll very likely buy the book, which is what happened with Alabama Sewing + Design, reviewed here.

Here’s my roundup of the other books I’m reading:

Sew Retro: A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution + 25 Vintage‐Inspired Projects for the Modern Girl by Judi Ketteler ($24.99). This is a fun book – a brief romp through fashion history (1880s to today) interspersed with profiles or interviews with women designers of the decades – from the 19th century’s Ellen Curtis Demorest to today’s Amy Butler. Alongside those pages, the author has projects (and patterns for them) that are supposed to be reminiscent of each time period. It’s a bit of a hybrid book with more pages devoted to history and people rather than sewing projects.

The projects were pretty basic, ranging from bags and purses to pillows and coasters – all things a beginning seamstress could easily handle. I’m not really interested in making most of the things in the book because I don’t need any more potholders, aprons, bags, etc. But I did like the needlecase – a nice design to store your hand sewing needles and thread snips.

Flowers I made from Petersham ribbon

Chic on a Shoestring: Simple to Sew Vintage-Style Accessories by Mary Jane Baxter ($22.95). This 2011 book has many ideas for embellishing tops and shoes – adding buttons, lace, rickrack, you name it – to refresh or refashion your existing wardrobe. Some of Baxter’s ideas aren’t really my style though. For example, I wouldn’t trim a hat with small pom poms or put lace doilies on a top. The author is a milliner.

The book also has several ideas for making accessories: belts from old neckties and necklaces as wells as detachable collars from a variety of materials — shoelaces, ribbon, fabric, beads and lace. I liked her idea for making flowers using Petersham ribbon that I made a few last month (see photo). I’ve attached clips to the back so I can wear them in my hair. She put several flowers on a purse, which looked quite elegant.

Sewn by Hand: Two Dozen Projects Stitched with Needle & Thread by Susan Wasinger ($19.95). This book has nice photos and illustrations on hand stitching, covering how to make knots (the single-hand, tangled knot vs. the two-hand knot) and a variety of hand stitches (running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, blanket stitch, slipstich, overcast stitch, and so on). The book’s projects are all very nicely designed and photographed. Some of the usual things featured in sewing books are here: a tote bag and potholders. But the author gives them unique touches, such as the covered buttons and rope strap on the tote bag and the potholders with smocking.

Improv Sewing: 101 Fast, Fun, and Fearless Projects: Dresses, Tunics, Scarves, Skirts, Accessories, Pillows, Curtains, and More by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut ($19.95). I put a slew of post-its on the pages of this book, which means that this one’s a keeper and I’ll definitely buy my own copy.

The book is full of simple designs for clothes (dresses, skirts, and tops), home projects, accessories and gifts. You make your own pattern for tops using your own shirt (or one you get from a thrift store if you don’t want to cut one up) as pattern pieces. Once you have your torso pattern piece, you reuse it again and again for the other designs

The majority of the book is devoted to clothes that you can make fairly quickly because they don’t have very many pattern pieces – and they look good! Some of the skirts use jersey knit fabric with foldover elastic over the waistband (no hemming necessary). How easy is that?

Sometimes I’m really impatient with sewing so it’ll be great to make something that I can finish in an afternoon. At more than 300 pages and with clear instructions and plenty of photos, it’s well worth the cover price. Oh, and the authors share a blog Improv Diary (in addition to their individual blogs) and they have an Improv Sewing Flickr group for folks to share what they’ve made.

Book Review: ‘Overdressed’ by Elizabeth L. Cline

I knew something was wrong last year when I saw the sale price of a floor-length black cotton skirt at H&M: five dollars. I remember asking myself: How was it possible to make and sell a long skirt – even with an elastic waist and lightweight fabric – for only five dollars?

I really couldn’t answer the question – though lurking in the back of my mind was the thought that labor costs must be really, really low. Despite that thought, I’m embarrassed to admit, I couldn’t resist the price and I bought it.

Now after reading Elizabeth Cline’s eye-opening book Overdressed (Portfolio/Penguin), I know why that skirt was so cheap. As as a result I don’t think I’ll ever buy anything else from H&M. (OK, I confess that that’s not that much of a sacrifice. I was never a regular H&M shopper because of the slipshod construction of the clothes – stripes that usually don’t line up, seams that looked like they would will come apart in a few washings, cheap fabric, and so on.)

The author spells out why chain stores such as H&M can sell clothes at such low prices – volume. After all when you can place an order of fifty thousand or a hundred thousand outfits from a factory, you can sell it at a low price and still make a profit. Keep in mind that people working in those factories are making their country’s minimum wage, which is likely not a living wage. For example in 2010, garment workers in Bangladesh demanded a 200 percent increase in their wages, which meant $71 a month. In the end, they got about $43 a month.

H&M in San Francisco

And with new stock arriving in some stores a couple of times a week or even everyday (yes, Cline says “H&M and Forever 21 get daily shipments of new styles.”), we have “fast fashion,” which encourages shoppers to buy more clothes more often. But this also means that smaller companies can’t compete because they can’t place such huge orders and must charge significantly more for their wares.

The book is packed with revelatory facts about our gargantuan consumption for cheap fashion and its negative impact on the fashion industry and the environment. Overdressed also provides a succinct overview of how the fashion industry has changed and how our attitude toward clothes has evolved over the past century.

“We are buying and hoarding roughly twenty billion garments per year as a nation,” says Cline, who also points out that the United States “now makes 2 percent of the clothing its consumers purchase, down from about 50 percent in 1990.”

I don’t know about you, but my jaw dropped when I read those numbers.

But Overdressed isn’t just about facts and figures, the author also includes her own personal experiences as a consumer of inexpensive clothes, confessing “For a decade, I only bought cheap fashion…” paying “less than $30 per item on average for each piece of clothing” in her closet.

Cline’s fascinating book is a combination of her first-person perspective and meticulous research (interviewing many people in the fashion industry in New York and traveling to to various places, including garment factories in China, defunct textile mills in the South, and a unionized garment factory in the Dominican Republic). She also devotes a chapter to the “afterlife of cheap clothes – and it isn’t pretty. A Brooklyn Salvation Army distribution center processes an average of five TONS of outcast clothing every day. Cline notes that every year “Americans throw away 12.7 million tons or 68 pounds of textiles per person.”

We can’t recycle that many clothes, folks. It’s just not possible.

Overdressed tries to end on a positive note by discussing people who design, sew, or refashion clothes. Cline describes taking sewing classes with Sarah Kate Beaumont of Very Sweet Life, and buys her first sewing machine a few weeks later. She visits stores that feature clothes made domestically and/or produced from sustainable fabrics, including the Echo Park Independent Co-op in Los Angeles and Kaight in New York, and says that local production is growing because “designers are realizing it gives them far beter quality control and speed to market.”

It’s these last chapters that are a boon to those who make their own clothes or who buy clothes from local designers. So in the spirit of supporting local design, here’s my plug for Field Day, an Oakland company whose mission is “to create an ecologically friendly, handmade, unique and beautiful world” while “[s]triving to minimize textile waste by offering wearables made from sustainable materials.”

Who are your favorite local designers? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section!

Chuleenan Svetvilas

UPDATE – October 15, 2012

I joined in a great Twitter chat (#EFCSRchat) today with Elizabeth Cline, Eileen Fisher, and Green Eileen, the recycled clothing initiative of the Eileen Fisher Community Foundation.

At the end of the chat I asked Elizabeth Cline (@thegoodcloset) “what do you tell your friends who are wearing #fastfashion?” She replied: “Lead by example, turn them on to ethical stores/websites. Go to Fashioningchange.com for ideas.”

She also tweeted a follow-up reply: “check out my shopping directory for a list of alternatives.” Here’s a link to the shopping directory on her website, which includes “those fashion designers/brands who not only have a strong ethical vision, but are design/style leaders as well.” (You can send suggestions for the shopping directory to Elizabeth at elizabeth.l.cline AT gmail.com.)

A few other pertinent tweets from Elizabeth from today’s #ERCSRchat:

” Even if you’re not into fashion, clothes matter! Buying responsibly has huge positive impacts on jobs/environment.”

“[W]e need to stop buying things we know are going to fall apart because textiles/fashion are huge polluters.”

“Ethical fashion has many components: Fair pay, environmental awareness, and smart/sustainable design.”

“It’s important for consumers to have their own sense of style NOT let the fashion industry dictate our choices.”

” Shopping compulsively and buying deals gets you nowhere fast. Check out my former closet: http://www.overdressedthebook.com/aboutelizabeth/

“Now, fashion is split into the super cheap vs. insanely overpriced. We need more fairly priced, well-made clothes.”

And some of the comments from Eileen Fisher (@EILEENFISHER):

“We read in the book that clothes should be viewed as investments, not as trendy throw away items. Couldn’t agree with it more.”

“Problem is that we get into the habit of asking “why pay good $ for clothes that aren’t going to be in style nxt season?”

From Green Eileen (@GreenEileenShop)

“Best tip: Think of the Future! Buying fast fashion goodies offers instant gratification, but what abt long-term?”

“our teams fave OVERDRESSED quote is: “We are all stewards of our clothing, responsible for seeing it…

And finally, from Dr. Susan Rubin (@DrsuRu):

“If our kids understood where clothing came from, they might re-think their shopping choices. Once again, similar to food.”

“As with food, stick with higher quality clothing and it will serve you better. That’s why I shop at @GreenEileenShop.”

“Many Americans use shopping as a drug. Need to become more mindful and discover that less is more.”