Find Laurel on Facebook

Enchanted By Sewing The Podcast

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Gypsy Rose Lee Tree Gown - Enchanted by Charles James

In my recent Enchanted by Sewing audio/podcast "Enchanted by Charles James",
I talked about seeing this gorgeous "Tree" gown designed to highlight Gypsy Rose Lee's curves.

Listen to the show, then see what they've got to say about this beauty in the Metropoliton's Collection.

Enchanted by Sewing - Enchanted by Charles James

Tree Gown at the Met

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fast Fashion Summer Essentials: Floral Cowl Neck Tee

I love sewing this cowl neck tee shirt.  I've made it four or five times now. It's a quick sew and dependable. I also like the look of it with my rose embellished denim straight skirt - which photo'd a little dark here. The details of the skirt show up a little better in this post - actually the skirt looks blue in the other posting ! - but the dark color above is more true to life.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Summer Essentials: Basic Shorts

Nothing beats a new pair of basic summer shorts. Usually I make this pattern with the traditional front hip pockets, but this time it was a tradeoff - I just needed to get them done more quickly. Besides, I just about always carry a mobile pocket bag, so as nice as in-garment-pockets are I can make do without them.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ench By Sew-36: Fiona, the Irish Laurel Dress

Dress creation brings out the romantic in me. When I looked ahead to my summer sewing, I thought if I could sew only one garment for the season, it would be a dress. Fiona, the Irish Laurel dress, satisfied my yearning to design and sew the perfect summer frock.

Hey let’s listen to the show! To do that you can either download the ‘cast from iTunes - Click on this link to iTunes  , 
*OR* listen directly on the web, by clicking on this link
* * *

This dress was a very satisfying project for my arty romantic style

In between sewing summer essentials - shorts and tees - I worked off and on to determine what design lines spoke to me about summer, mock up a miniature sloper pattern to test my ideas, draft a pattern from my sloper, and then finally to sew up Fiona, while summer was still on!

* Pensamientos Primeros - Thinking through my idea for this summer dress
     - Part 1 - Planning Fiona
        - Part 2 - Farewell to Summer Romancing Fiona, the Irish Laurel Dress  
*Technicos - Pattern Drafting and Kissing Zipper using a Prick Stitch

*Pensamientos Finales - Fiona's Design Lines have roots in my own history

Finians Rainbow was a modern American fairy tale. It expressed late 1960's dreams for racial harmony and folks coming together. Fred Astaire (Finian McLonigan) and Petula Clark(his daughter Sharon) added in the romance of America seen, and idealized, fresh from Irish eyes. The story of Finian's determination to plant himself a crop of Irish gold, intertwined with romance of countryside and a new happpily-ever-after love for Sharon draws me in as well today as it did when I was a kid who'd only recently arrived in a new place myself. Any wonder that the movie's costumes inspire my pattern work and sewing today?

Visit Me Encanta Coster/Enchanted by Sewing - my regular sewing blog for other summer sewing I enjoyed along the way... in between time spent bringing Fiona to life

Ench By Sew-35:Enchanted by Charles James - 20'th Century Fashion History

The Charles James Ribbon Gown - Muslin in the background
Enchanted by Charles James - Stepping into a liminal space to study and enjoy glorious fashion designs and analyze the construction of those garments is the kind of thing that keeps me … enchanted by sewing.

Hey let’s go to the show together! To do that you can either download the ‘cast from iTunes - Click on this link to iTunes  , 
*OR* listen directly on the web, by clicking on this link

* * *
  Some months the Enchanted by Sewing podcast, journals my own sewing project accomplishments, techniques and creative ideas. Other times I share the source of  some of my sewing inspiration. This month is inspiration time, as I take you along on an another in-the-,moment fashon exhibit - a visit to the beautiful Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco , where I went repeatedly to  view the exhibit, High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection  exhibit of the Brooklyn Fashion Museum.

This collection – which is housed  and curated by the Metropoliton Museum of Art  in NY City- includes a wide range of the work of 20’th century designers and couturiers.

There was no way I could share all of what I saw with you.

By my third visit, I realized that , despite the charms of designers and coturiers in the exhibit- Elsa Schiaparelli and Madeleine Vionnet, just to name a few of the big names, and some that have been almost forgotten- the hands-down winner for sharing with you, was Charles James. That’s because James, and his clients and admirers, worked to see to it, that more than his beautiful garments were saved in this collection, to motivate and educate future sewists, designers and couturiers. This historical treasure trove includes sketches and muslins which really tell the story of how he worked, and what went into the garments he fashioned. They are an inspiration for the creative process.

The body of Charles James work extends from the 1930s into the1950s. The garments he designed, constructed and created were worn by high society types like  Austine Hearst, the wife of Mr. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., Millicent Rogers and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. They were also made for women with less blue blood like Jeanne Bultman the wife of the artist Fritz Bultman, and Gypsy Rose Lee!

James didn’t just sketch up a gown and expect others to produce it. He worked in the true couture tradition (some say the only American designer who did). He draped fabric in complex ways to get what he was after. Often he created specialized support systems under his gowns, to enhance and extend their third dimensions . Charles James also used fabric in studied ways working with color, light and reflectivity in addition to the hang or drape of the material. He also focused on developing seaming techniques that molded the fabric into directions he wanted it to move.

I’ll be blogging more about Charles James garments I saw at this exhibit over time . You’ll find those in the podcast show notes and at my regular blog, So if you find Charles James as appealing as I do, subscribe to the podcast show notes or Me Encanta Coser to be notified about new James postings.

Show at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco

Other SF show links

~ ~ ~
The Entire (over 400 items) Charles James Collection is Freely Available and Searchable Online at the Metropolitan Museum - Brooklyn Costume Collection. This collection includes not only beautiful garments, but muslins and design sketches James created along the way.

A few Example Links in the above collection - Use this link to do your own searching

Muslin for the Ribbon Gown

Charles James Fashion Sketches

Clover leaf Ball Gown Sketches

Monday, August 3, 2015

Romancing my Summery Irish Laurel Dress- Pattern Blue Sky (Part 1)

It's fun looking back at what led to the creation of Fiona, my newly finished Irish Laurel dress. I'm going to talk about this new frock over the course of several blog postings, as I recall what led to the pattern draft, pattern choice, and spirit of the dress. I also plan to dedicate a podcast to Fiona. I'm not sure if I'll produce that 'cast as my August or September show. You can signup at to get email notification when new podcasts are released.

I began work on Fiona using a quarter scale sloper pattern, which I traced from a sewing book. There are a lot of slopers on the web that I could have printed out as well.

 My sloper has a bust dart and fisheye front dart like this one.

I wanted Fiona to be empire waisted, but I didn't want to simply gather a high-waited skirt under the bust. 

Design Goals
1) Sleeveless
2) Empire waist
3) One-piece front (and back).
4) Very fitted bodice
5) Pattern with very simple lines
6)  A light, floating and easy feeling summery dress

It really helped working in quarter scale. 

a) Initially I cut apart the bodice below the bust, creating a second, separate torso piece. Then I cut another line at the waist.

b) Notice that I pinned in the bust dart (goal 4) and put some padding under it to give me the sense of a three-dimensional garment. That also shows where a skirt would attach to the stitching line, so I know how long to make the seam line for any pattern piece that might be separate would need to be. 

In this case, as you can see from the curved line I extended the pattern at this below-the-bust point, so that was not an issue. If I were cutting a separate skirt piece, it would be.

c) I then cut apart the skirt as though I were creating a flared skirt pattern. I blogged about making a flared skirt from a sloper shortly after I finished my "French Pattern Drafting" class with Lynda Maynard. This is the first chance I've had to actually make a flared skirt. Of course this flared skirt will not hang from the waist, but I figured it was the same idea.

d) After I taped up the flared skirt - by closing the waist dart and pulling the skirt apart to accommodate that - I graded down from just below the bust (where I cut the pattern apart) to the side seam of the skirt in the area of the full hip. That's the slightly curved line you see drawn in.

Later on, when I created the actual full-sized pattern based on my sloper. I didn't cut apart the bodice, though I did cut away the skirt at the natural waistline, reforming the full front by judicious taping and pattern paper insertion. I did cut several lines to accommodate dart movement however.

Another thought, if this were a really complex pattern, would be to use some kind of small dress form just to do the pattern work without the fit. I'm not sure if this quarter-size would fit a large doll, but it might. Or you could rework this mini-sloper to fit a large doll. Madeline Vionnet used to drape patterns on a fashion doll. 

If the doll represented a child, I'd need to pad it out to represent a more womanly figure. It would be fun to try - if life were only all about sewing!