Archive for September 2012

Style interest from accessories rather than clothes ?

September 28, 2012

Many of us focus on clothes with interesting style elements – each garment is different. The pattern companies encourage us in this, so we go on buying more patterns. And many of us like to make something ‘different’ each time we sew.

But there’s a completely different approach to ‘looking interesting’. Janice of The Vivienne Files has one of her thought provoking pieces, on a ‘creative’ group of people who wear ultra-basic clothes, and add all the interest with accessories – scarves, hats, belts, jewellery, eyeglasses, gloves, socks, shoes. . .

Here’s her post. She picks a basic wardrobe to use as an ‘unnoticed’ background for interesting accessories.

Emphasise the quality – this needn’t be a way of looking cheap and scruffy.

These base garments are very simple to copy.

The wardrobe

Janice picks 12 items, in 4 groups of 3 :

Sweater knits – turtleneck (UK polo neck), classic twinset – all in black
Cashmere to underline the quality. There’s a lot of poor quality cashmere in catalogues and on-line – feels worse than good merino wool. You do need to touch and handle it to find the good stuff. Only then do you understand why cashmere is such a prestige fibre.


Crew neck tees – white, grey, black


Shirts – white, chambray, and shirt jacket in denim


(Judith Rasband in a recent e-mail advocated classic denim shirts and relaxed fit white silk shirts as good additions to any wardrobe this season.
P.S. Janice has multiple other outfit suggestions for wearing a denim shirt, here.)

Pants – chinos and slim jeans/ pants – tan, black, dark indigo


(Several stylists recommend adding to your jeans this season.)

Photos from J. Crew – of course you can get similar basics from many sources.

(P.S. This wardrobe has focus on cool colour – blue. Janice has now posted a similar basic wardrobe in warm colours here. It’s a bit short on layers for me – I would add a tan shirt-jacket.)


Even for the most basic styles, it’s a good idea to use recent patterns – for current proportions and shoulder shaping.

(I’ve assumed you buy the sweater knits.)

Crew neck tee (instead use your most flattering neckline).

Kwik Sew Kwik Start 3766.


Palmer-Pletsch new unisex shirt (make a larger size with flapped chest pockets for a shirt jacket), McCall’s 6613.


Many other shirt patterns available if you want something with a bit more individuality. And many independent designers have tee/ shirt/ pant patterns with interesting details. But that isn’t the point here. These clothes are background – basics which don’t draw attention, so they don’t distract from the individual choice of accessories.

Chinos, Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 6361.


Slim pants and jeans, Butterick 5682.


Or use Wendy Mullin’s Sew U and Sew U Home Stretch pattern books – she’s an example of a designer who aims for a ‘creative’ customer group.  Her books are about being creative with clothes, but the starting points she gives are the most basic styles.


Classic shirts and jeans can be quite challenging to sew. It’s possible to start with similar but much easier styles, such as beginner patterns :

Kwik Sew Kwik Start 3475 camp shirt.


Kwik Sew Kwik Start 3314 elastic waist pants with side-seam pockets.

Does this idea appeal ? or does the thought of having to wear such simple casuals appall you 😀 Don’t forget people using this approach look much more interesting than the clothes in the basic wardrobe, as they add their individual accessories.

Getting style interest by wearing the simplest clothes and adding all the creativity in accessories is the opposite of all the books and independent patterns which tell you how to use a simple starting point to make a wide variety of clothes styles.

There are of course many ways of adding more variety to a small group of clothes. I have a post planned on some of them.

Also very easy to change this clothing group to different personal styles, by changing the shirt-jacket to a more arty or prettier jacket style, or replacing it with a blazer. Post planned on this.

If you do like this approach – what are your favourite accessories, to add interest to these very basic clothes ?
I have a post planned about accessory styles.

Well, are you an accessories person ? Have you got a closet full of bags, or shoes, hats, scarves, belts, gloves, statement jewellery. . . Would these simple garments be a way for you to build the most basic of wardrobe starting points, to use as background to all these exciting elements ?

Or perhaps you’re someone who has difficulty picking up any interest in accessories, and find clothes with minimum style elements very boring 😀

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Patterns and links available September 2012

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Wheee – 150 posts (since August 2009).
As I don’t include huge photos, videos, music – I’ve only used 0% of my allocated blog storage space ! Efficiency habits go back not just to the days of dial-up connection, but 30 years ago to my first ever personal computer (a Commodore PET) which had 32k of memory and no hard drive. . .

Thanks for your continuing interest 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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Touches of high fashion for a/w 2012

September 22, 2012

I’ve been lazy about images. For lots of photos of runway styles, look at the (US Vogue) Trend Report for the a/w 2012 season.
Also the UK Elle Trend Report.
UK In Style has separate reports on each fashion city, if you want to be reminded that the fashion journalists pick out a small selection of possibilities from a huge variety of styles.

Brocade is the season’s big idea for a patterned fabric.
Fur used in unusual ways, such as sleeves or yokes only, or inset strips.

Patterns and embellishments
brocades again.
Chinese inspired.
baroque arabesques.
geometric patterns with right angles.
big dark florals.
leopard and python animal skins.
glued or sewn jewels or metal plates/ studs.

Pant and skirt suits made with top and bottom in the same print/ non-classic weave.
Or the opposite – make different sections of the garment in different prints.

(For the Fall 2012 Pantone Report scroll down the left side of their site to Features.)

Red in all its shades, but especially berry, is the key colour for this season.
Black leather and lace is neo-Goth.
Silver, especially in accessories and hard-edged minimalist ‘futuristic’ clothes styles.
Gold, especially in added baroque pattern.

Oversize coats.
Bow-neck blouses.
Waist emphasis – peplums, padded hips, waist belts from narrow to wide cinch.
Jumpsuits – though just with a bib front as in overalls/ dungarees, not a complete top with back and sleeves.

Style details (this season’s ‘masculine’ styles)
Military – browns, olives, or brights for colour.
Equestrian – leather and high boots.

Clutch purse.
Mule shoes, ankle boots.
Snoods, neck rings, fun fur scarves.

These are the key trends picked out by US Vogue and UK Elle, but if you look through all the runway shows you can find designers who support most style enthusiasms 😀

Different fashion writers can pick out different themes.
Here’s Angie of You Look Fab’s similar summary of the season.
Here’s an update on Angie’s must-haves for this season.
There’s a rather different selection of trends from Connie Crawford here.
Here are Nancy Nix-Rice’s wearable ideas on the season’s trends.
With lots of inspirational current outfit photos from her here.

As usual, there are possibilities to suit many tastes. And not to worry – go your own way if nothing appeals !

For more focus on casual clothes, it can help to look at the ‘resort’ collections.

Eek, on the insider sites, the 2012 autumn-winter runway collections are now ‘old news’. You can already look at the 2013 spring-summer collections if you want to be really fashion forward ! (, firstVIEW, Tom and Lorenzo)

Actually, you can only impress people with your high style if they know the same fashion references.
Nancy Erickson had a quote from Chanel in her July/August newsletter :
“A really well dressed woman. . . should be able to pass through a motley crowd unnoticed, but should create a mild sensation on entering a drawing room among the knowing elite.”

Perhaps your favourite ‘knowing elite’ is not clothes high spenders in expensive drawing rooms or on the red carpet, but top professionals, sports fans, vintage lovers, goths, gym users, cafe-bar party goers, people in the countryside, at art gallery openings, music festivals.

Is that important to you ?
or celebrate the creativity and skill shown on the runways, and treat it all as entertainment 😀

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Links available September 2012

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My choices for a/w 2012 : new BMV patterns

September 15, 2012

This season I’ve just picked for myself, not patterns of general interest.
There are some marvellous new Vogue designer patterns for people who want to look both stunning and professional. But I’m past that stage of my life.

I keep saying this, but I wear big shirts and vests – a look that does appear on the runway and in many stores – though the fashion journalists rarely mention it and the wardrobe planners never do. Happily the pattern companies cater well for my tastes, even if the fashion writers don’t !

Here’s some of the new possibilities.

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Big shirts

I love a yoked shirt – works well for my personal style and my body shape.
The yoke gives a bit of definition to my skimpy shoulders.
And the gathers below allow a trim slim look over the shoulders combined with extra fabric to cover my hips.

I also prefer a style that closes up to the neck, rather then a V-neck. I feel the cold, it suits my face shape better, and it gives a bit of dimension to the front of a garment – needed as I have a small bust.

Here’s a couple of very different styles.

A big loose shirt with choice of 3 necklines, 2 sleeves and 2 hems (similar big yoke at back), McCall’s 6605.


Best to wear leggings or slim pants with such a big top, if you don’t want to look like a balloon !

By contrast, here’s a neat slim fit, Butterick 5826.


Possible to wear a much wider range of pant leg widths with a closer fitting style like this.

I also like an inset yoke and a smock style, but patterns for those are mainly from Simplicity/ New Look.

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Big tops

For wovens – the front of this drape style (left) is cut on the bias, McCall’s 6604.


Butterick 5816 has multiple options.


If you like the comfort of big loose tops, here are wide poncho-like styles for indoor wear, 3 necklines including a hoodie, 4 sleeves, 2 hems, McCall’s 6603.


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Vests and sleeveless tops

An easy-wear extra layer of warmth without encumbering the arms.

Here’s a fairly conventional vest pattern – ah, no, it has actually got both bust and back neck darts ! Looks spectacular made in fur (and fur gilets are high fashion). Large enough to layer over a fitted jacket, Vogue 8838.


(Safari and trench styled vests are also current. And closely fitted tailored versions.)

Or a deep cowl sleeveless layering knit tunic with 3 hems by Nancy Zieman, McCall’s 6607.


Leave off the cowl, add a scarf instead, change neckline/ add collar if you’re adventurous – many easy style changes.

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Piecing and Jackets

Many crafters like the challenge of pieced jackets. Modern ones are made with areas of different tones of similar solid fabrics, rather than myriad small pieces of patterned patchwork fabrics.

(P.S. though see the Givenchy Resort 2013 collection for some fantastic piecing and fabric combining.)

There’s a multi-fabric option for the jacket with the fur vest, Vogue 8838. The skill involved in making that back will only be appreciated by other sewers !


There’s also a new jacket from Marcy Tilton, Vogue 8839. For knits including fleece. It has a short cascade collar, more flattering for my small busted top. And interesting options for combining fabrics. A bit straight up and down for my shape, I might add some flare.


Somewhat similar – the new style multi-fabric shirt has each pattern piece in a different solid fabric (collar, placket, yoke, etc.). Not the main pattern sections (front, back, sleeves) pieced from multiple fabrics. (Or use large rather than small areas of fabric for your ‘piecing’.)

Use your favourite classic shirt pattern, or there’s a new version of the Palmer-Pletsch unisex shirt, McCall’s 6613.

(These examples aren’t the Palmer-Pletsch pattern, they’re from Modcloth.)

And there are multi-fabric options for the Butterick 5816 top.

Not pieced (though it could be) : a new pattern for my usual shape of jacket – Connie Crawford Butterick 5828.


Or exaggerate the size – says oversized coats are a big fashion idea for this a/w.

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I’m a fan of Marcy Tilton bags, this one is Vogue 8843. But what’s with the big green leaf ? I confess I didn’t notice the bag at first, and thought the pattern was for a leaf shaped bag. Not something to take on the bus in the rush hour !


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Finally a skirt

There are many attractive new pants patterns this season, from very slim to wide. But I only wear one style of pants, simple classics – slightly tapered or slightly more tapered. I haven’t got the right shape legs for leggings, but I do need to look for a slim pair of pants, to have the current proportions with those big tops. Hmmm. . . Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 6440 is not new but recent.

There is a pattern which might entice me back to skirt wearing – a long skirt with matching jacket, Vogue 8841. I could wear this round here without looking odd. Slightly shorter jacket is like the proportions of skirts and jackets in the early 20th century, my favourite historic period for style.


Aren’t we lucky to be free to choose from such a wide range of styles these days 😀

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Patterns and links available September 2012

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Greetings after a hospital stay – and what the doctors wear

September 8, 2012

Sorry about the lapse in posting, but completely unexpectedly I went into hospital at the beginning of July.

Early in my stay there was a group of young doctors all dressed in ‘Vivienne Files’ style. And very smart and professional they looked too. (Obviously a small part of my fashion brain was still working, even if most of the rest of me wasn’t !)

It took about 6 weeks to get me sorted out and send me home, and I still have very little spare energy. I’m not expecting to go back to posting weekly – priorities have changed. I think I was getting a bit repetitive, and it’s amazing how much energy all those links and images take ! But I have a few finished but unpublished posts still in store, and no doubt will feel strongly about topics in future. . .

For example – I thought a jumper dress looked much more professional than a sheath dress on most body types. Well, a sheath dress that is anything but just right does not look professional at all ! It could be fun to look out modern jumper dress patterns. If you adapt another pattern, remember you need at least 1-2 inches/ 2.5-5 cm extra ease to layer over a top. And the armhole needs to be big enough not to crush the sleeve underneath. A close fitting sleeve looks slim, but a shirt sleeve is also current. In fact there’s a new Fashion Star shirt dress pattern, McCall’s 6600, if you want to look efficient and professional without a close fit.

And there are all the other new BMV patterns to comment on. . .

I’m delighted to see that the number of visitors to my blog hasn’t dropped dramatically despite the lack of new posts, so it looks as if you find the material helpful for reference. Which I’m very pleased about. Will have to get round to devising a better index. . .
Best Wishes and thanks to you all for your interest.

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