Ok, enough of the fancy outfits for the summer. Time for something practical - jeans! My mom gifted me some quality denim with a small amount of stretch for my birthday in July and I quickly sewed up this pair my using my pants block.

Pattern: My Mambo No. 5 jeans block
Fabric: 2 yds denim
Cost: gift

I think for now I'm finally happy with my pants block and done tweaking it. It's only taken me like three years! The block is for a fitted pair of jeans or pants and takes into account my hip to waist ratio, full bum, knock knees, and all my other little fitting quirks. I call it "Mambo No. 5" because it is a little bit of all the patterns I've tried: Ginger, Misty, Clover, etc. I think I'm really funny.

The pattern is not always adaptable to style changes like a higher waist, fuller legs, or other styles (I have other patterns for that) but this is my favorite silhouette and also the hardest to fit, so it's nice to finally have something down. 

I had originally planned for them to be a bit more of a relaxed fit. Here they are straight out of the wash - they do relax some with wear. 

The most fun part of these jeans was designing the pocket. I went with a random scattering of little stars.

As you may have noticed, I'm always wearing a new top in these photos. It's McCall's #7810. I really love it on the model, but she's got a much fuller figure than me and I just feel like I don't quite fill it out. This is even after sizing down to sew it in a knit rather than a woven fabric. And while the bust feels oversized, I probably made the waistband piece a bit too fitted. And then the white fabric is a bit sheer. I have already donated it. You win some, you lose some!

Hope you all are enjoying your fall! We had a week of cooler weather where I busted out my sweaters, but now we're back to 80 degree days - warmer than most summer days for us!

The Concept, the Outfit

Inspired by or copying? This is often a hot debate - some say that you should never copy outright. But I say - go for it! How do painters master their art? By copying the greats! How do apprentices hone their craft? By following their masters! You can run into problems when you try to pass off someone else's designs as your own (and it is especially wrong when you are a big corporation ripping off someone less powerful than you), but for home sewers I highly encourage you to try to copy your idols. 

Pattern: final design adapted from Deer and Doe's Sirocco Jumpsuit
Fabric: Robert Kauffman stretch suiting
Cost: $40

That said, if you're like me, you will quickly learn that copying high fashion is HARD. What looks like a few simple ruffles, a twist, a skirt, is actually a carefully crafted masterpiece honed over months and made by hand in a couture studio. And that's what makes copying the masters such an interesting project. You truly appreciate their skill and mastery of the craft. 

By comparison, I quickly realized my shortcomings. Below is the original Johanna Ortiz inspiration that I fawned over for months. I love that it is fancy, but still a pantsuit. The drama of the ruffles, the flare of the skirt - I wanted to copy everything except the bell bottoms.

It took me over a month of making muslins to get something together. There were a lot of changes along the way. I'm not sure I ever quite figured out how they got those ruffles so perfect. And the skirt hung terribly - it had to go. The top is separate from the pants, but I had to add a strip of fabric to make it long enough. What I got is the version you see below. 

Overall, it was fine. But a far cry from the original. As you can see, I got all dressed up and wore it to a wedding. It was fun, but overall the outfit felt just meh. The pants showed a lot of draglines, as did the top under the bust. The zipper rubbed a bit when I wore it. Compared to the beautiful designer look, I had fallen short.

It was back to the drawing board. And this time I decided that maybe I just wasn't up to copying the original. Instead, I decided to go with the "inspired by" route. Based on my first experience, I thought version 2 would be much better as a jumpsuit. I made a few design changes to streamline the look. And, luckily, I had just made my first Sirocco and was feeling inspired to try this again.

This version uses the bodice of my go-to Simplicity #4070 princess-seam bodice with the pants of the Sirocco jumpsuit. I ordered my favorite Robert Kauffman stretch suiting, re-purposed the sleeves, and was on my way. Compared to the first version, I was now using my tried and true patterns, a favorite fabric, and a design I had partially made before. In comparison to the first version, I was cruising.

Much better! It's still no designer outfit, but this version fit better and felt more polished. I added spiral boning to the bodice so that it holds its shape. Thanks to the drafting of the Sirocco pants, there are also now no draglines or crotch wrinkles. And it's so much more comfortable! 

And don't forget those sleeves!

I actually had the whole thing sewn up when I decided it needed a bit more color. I picked apart the pockets (including near the zipper! the horror!) and added the contrast fabric there as well. As you can see from the sleeves, the brocade is a brilliant pink on the underside but a more coordinated black with florals on the outside. It was a lot of fun to play with it for this design. I like how the pockets stand out now a bit against the otherwise black jumpsuit.

This project has definitely given me a big appreciation for designer looks and may give me a bit more pause next time I decide to copy one. But now I have a new outfit for our next wedding, which will be in January - a perfect time for a jumpsuit!

Have you ever successfully copied a designer style? Did it turn out the way you hoped? I admit that it's hard!

Fancy Pants

Sometimes I don't feel like I take enough advantage of being a sewer. Hear me out: while I sew every chance that I get, I don't always make things that look that different from ready-to-wear. Jeans are jeans, t-shirts are t-shirts, and, at the end of the day, most of what I sew isn't that unique. Sometimes I wonder, am I really getting the full utility out of making things myself?

But these pants. THESE PANTS. These pants you can't buy off the rack. These pants are weird, creative, and very different. And they make me glad I can sew and wear whatever the hell I can dream up. 

Pattern: Style Arc's Ebony Woven Pants
Fabric: 1 yd embroidered stretch velvet paired with 1 yd stretch suiting
Cost: $40

The inspiration for these pants came from Pinterest - it's a very unique design from the Chloe 2013 spring collection. In it, one leg is covered with 3D flowers while the other is a plain solid. I copied this design using an embroidered stretch velvet from Stone Mountain and a Robert Kauffman stretch suiting remnant from a jumpsuit. It's a great way to feature a more expensive fabric like the velvet because you only need half of what it would take to make a full pair of pants. And I love that Robert Kauffman stuff. It drapes like a dream. 

The pattern is a fun one, too. It's the Ebony Woven Pants from Style Arc, which have a cross-over feature at center front, kind of like Thai fisherman pants. I feel like this draped portion was really necessary to emphasize the embroidered velvet fabric and give it some extra treatment. See how it folds over the center front? I even appliqued an extra flower at center front to emphasize the design. 

I wasn't sure exactly how this pattern was going to fit since I had never made it before. Not wanting to make a muslin, I simply compared it to a pattern that I knew already fit me well: the Thread Theory Lazo Trousers. I sometimes need a knock-knee or crotch curve adjustment in Style Arc patterns, but the fit seemed pretty comparable so I plunged ahead. 

These pants have a flat-front elastic waistband, which also makes them easy to fit. While I normally grade out from my waist to my hips, I am aware that if you do this in an elastic-waisted pattern then you might not be able to get the pants over your hips. So, I cut my full hip size for the entire pants and planned to use smaller elastic to draw them in around the waist. This worked well. The pants aren't super snug at the waist, but this makes them quite comfortable. 

If you can decipher the brief Style Arc instructions they are quite quick to sew and only took me two evenings to put together. The only thing that I would change is I don't think the front crossover goes quite far enough, so I could see extending it to really emphasize the style. I also think the pleats on the under side (my left) look a little sloppy on most versions like they don't quite hang with the drape. You could probably eliminate them and still get the same fun look. 

Speaking of look, I didn't quite intend to go all sun flare artsy with these photos, but that's what you get when you're a one-woman-show shooting on a tripod. Yes, that cameraman husband of mine gave up on taking my pics ages ago. 

I am feeling quite fancy in my fancy pants. I plan to wear them out anywhere that I want to feel dressed up but also a bit artsy or quirky. They've already come with me to dinner and a concert and gotten compliments from my stylish friend, so I think I'm on track. The elastic waistband and roomy fit also make them perfect for eating large meals or dancing the night away. Could you ask for anything more out of your sewing skills? 

THAT Vogue Dress

Remember this pattern? Yes, THAT pattern. The one Lladybird called the "droopy boobs trying to pretend like they don’t know each other" pattern. I have to admit, I kind of liked it. So I made it!

Pattern: Vogue's Nicola Finetti #1587
Fabric: something polyester?
Cost: $20

What inspired me about this dress was the sleeves. I liked the take on the cold shoulder. When I saw the pattern, I imagined them in a semi-sheer fabric. To make it happen, I walked into the fabric store open to whatever colors I could find that came in sheer and opaque. Pink wasn't my first choice, but the color's not bad on me. Plus I found them next to one another in the bargain section, so this dress was cheap! It's hard to photograph, but I like how the lighter sleeves move with the dress while the body is quite stable.

Now, some of the critiques of this pattern were definitely justified and there were a few modifications I wanted to make. First, I raised that neckline. Then, I got rid of the front slit. Really, who could sit down in that?! I seriously laughed out loud just thinking about that. 

I also wish that I had raised the armhole. Every Vogue dress I've made in the past year has had a very low armhole. I made no other changes, though you can see it fits me a bit differently than the model. The dress is fully lined and I added bust cups, my new secret weapon for dresses that aren't bra friendly. 

So far this dress has been really fun. It's made it to two weddings and Vegas. The one drawback is I really can't lift my arms very high, even to drink from a glass. I wouldn't recommend sleeves like this for everyday wear.  😂

So what do you think, love it or leave it? 

Summer Swing Dress

For the clothes that I don't make myself, I pick up at clothing swaps. My boss in college used to throw a big one where I could get some professional clothes, and lately some of my girlfriends have been putting on a semi-regular one. I find a lot of great stuff and it's perfect for trying things that might not be "me" to see if I like them. One unexpected hit was a striped swing dress I picked up from my friend. While she and I have very different body types (broad shoulders versus narrow, a few inches in height, etc.), her dress fit me almost perfectly! It was one of the pieces I took with me to Europe for three months and I wore it all. the. time. It was great for hot days, comfortable for traveling, and fun to wear.

Unfortunately, during our time in Prauge, I took a load to the cleaners because there were no laundry mats or machines in our building. And this dress didn't come back with the rest of them. We tried to go back to ask about it but ran into a language barrier and couldn't find it. It wasn't a huge loss though because, luckily for me, I can sew!

Pattern: McCall's Knit Swing Dress #7622
Fabric: 2 yds jersey
Cost: $30

That was a few years ago and I finally decided to replace that dress this week. As the weather was heating up around here I was really missing it. Luckily, McCall's #7622 was a perfect match and even had a few more options!

One of the options that I used was the V cutout. It's supposed to be in the front but I put it in the back. I had to cut the back in two pieces because of my limited yardage, but the center seam actually made it easier to sew the V. Instead of a facing I just turned the raw edge under and stitched. The cutout lends a nice touch, don't you think?

I also made two other changes to adjust for fit. I cut in the shoulders by about two inches to show a bit more skin. And the collar was also much too loose so I ended up taking out about 4(!) inches. That snugged things right up. Otherwise it's a very easy dress to fit. And I don't usually do this but I left it unhemmed :)

Another fun feature is that this dress has pockets! There were separate pattern pieces included, but I attached the pocket pieces to the main dress pattern and cut them out as a cut-on to the dress. This made construction super easy - just stitch up the side seam and around the pockets and you're done! It even holds my phone without too much trouble.

I am wearing this as I type and it is so comfy! I know it's the end of August but in the Bay Area that usually means warm days ahead!
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