In today’s post, I’m handing over the reins to our Fashion Sewing Blog to an author who wants to tell you about a fantastic book she’s just written and published.
Fitting in with the mantra of Fashion Sewing Blog, her book, introduced below and published by A&C Black, will be of great interest to anybody wanting to learn how to make their own clothing.
It’s a book where by the end, you’ve actually really learned something!
Liz Gregory’s new book, ‘Sew Iconic‘, instructs its readers on how to make and achieve some of the iconic looks found on the silver screen. Step by step, she’ll guide you in how to make some of the more ‘famous‘ garments, worn by Hollywood’s elite in some very iconic films.
Not only can you embellish your very own celebrity status, but ‘Sew Iconic‘ can help you become an all round better fashion sewer.
And isn’t that what we all want to achieve?
So, without further hesitation, I’ll hand you over to Liz Gregory.
Sew Iconic by Liz Gregory
With my first book – ‘Sew Iconic’ – about to hit bookshelves, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the process of becoming an author.
It is fantastic to think that there are other people who are both fascinated by the concept of clothing defining a character and by how those garments are actually made –
I had hitherto always thought I was one of a small number of ‘sewingistas’ (thanks Colleen!) that watch movies for the beauty of the creations onscreen and who hoard mountains of pretty, shiny fabrics just because I can… but it turns out there’s many more of us than I’d realised!
The book is a foray into a number of fields – movie memorabilia, dressmaking and the artistry of the costume designer.
You are invited to embark upon ten different dress-making projects, all inspired by iconic movies from a variety of different eras and styles.
Each one is meant to evoke an emotional connection that will motivate novice and experienced modistes alike to pick up their needles and get creating!
The projects are arranged approximately in order of complexity, starting with Julia Roberts’ brown & white polka dot day dress from ‘Pretty Woman’ (see below), and ending with the romantic coral and black ballgown worn by Kate Winslet in Titanic.
Each project has patterns provided, along with step-by-step instructions to make the dresses.
When we watch great movies we are transported to another world– storytelling is so much a part of the human psyche which has often been accentuated by increasingly erudite visual formats. The costume designer on every film project is one of the most significant artists in the creative process.
They describe each character visually for the audience, interpreting the director/writers vision with pin-point accuracy so that we can better appreciate the story, without even realising it.
For me, this is most clearly demonstrated by Jacqueline Durran, costume designer on the sublime ‘Atonement’:
Cecilia’s gorgeous green gown is perfectly in keeping with the character and period, yet Durran takes this concept of audience manipulation to a much higher level.
The director chose green because this causes people to feel confronted by conflicting emotions, signifying the key point of this powerful story – jealousy. However, Durran embarked upon an almost impossible mission to create exactly the right shade of green, by trawling though endless samples, selecting constituent colours and fabrics and then employing a Master Dyer to create a custom-made batch of silk solely for the purpose of clothing the key character in something that engenders the most blindingly damaging fit of jealousy that could be conceived.
As if it were even necessary, she further enhanced the characterisation by adding the most complex of methods of fastening the garment – representing Cecilia’s emotional and intellectual struggle about her feelings for Robbie in a startlingly visual manner, twisting and turning the lengthy sash, which is gaily abandoned in the heat of their passion.
What a triumph!
This was definitely the most challenging and intriguing garment to work on in the book, although several other complex contenders also offered the challenge to make them affordable.
My budget had to bear in mind the simple fact that most of us are not fortunate enough to have almost unlimited funds with which to realise the dream!
Durran’s search for the perfect shade of the most feather-light silk, coupled with the commissioning of over a hundred metres required to make ten copies of the costume must have cost a significant sum that is simply impractical for ordinary folk, so compromises had to be made.
It’s a good job I’ve had nearly thirty years creating costumes for children in school productions, where funding is always very limited and you very quickly learn to make the best of what is available!
To make ‘Keira’, use the instructions in the book, but you may also need to consider the following:
1 – Spend time sourcing a suitable fabric, both in terms of colour and weight.
This dress defines the body that it barely skims, so the fabric must be very light and floaty – typical of the Madeleine Vionnet or Lucien Lelong bias-cut evening gowns of the ‘Thirties.
A lovely silken sheen so that the fabric ‘glimmers’ when the wearer moves would be great. Remember that this dress is cut on the bias and this greatly adds to the amount of fabric required.
2 – The original bodice’s unique design was controversial, as the pattern that decorated the upper edges was in fact a cut-work design, created by modern laser-cutting equipment (here’s a link to the company’s website, describing their processing – Heritge Inlay Design.
It’s an expensive alternative, so I substituted a design of hand-made bead and sequin work, taking the cut-work design as my guide.
To make your own version, draw out with sharpened tailor’s chalk, directly onto the fabric exactly where you want to either cut or stitch beads/sequins to.
Also, complete this stage before sewing the lining so that the back of the sewing is effectively hidden. If you’re going to attempt using some cutting technique, clearly it will have to go through both layers, so attach the lining first in that case.
3 – Take particular care with this garment when cutting out, cutting in single layers rather than through folded layers wherever possible – this fabric is costly and likely to be very slippery, quite apart from the fact that you are cutting on the bias (at 45º to the grain) so take your time and be sure!
Where the pattern has indications to cut on a fold, cut out a paper pattern that is folded, unfold it to show the complete piece and then cut that from the fabric, to avoid the potential difficulties already described.
4 – The secret loops built into the side hip seams will need to be concealed when you tie the sash, so follow the guidelines in the book to tie it correctly.
The original is massively complex so this compromise ensures a nod to the original whilst remaining relatively easy to create.
5 – The bodice is designed to be recklessly loose and negligee-like, but you will want to feel reasonably secure that your modesty is appropriately covered, so check the length of the fine straps to ensure a good fit.
6 – Finally, the skirt pattern is designed to float just on the ankle at the front, with a deep puddle at the back as walking in this fabric may be rather difficult if you cut it much longer at the front, although Keira’s original dress did have the front skirt skimming her toes.
You need to decide whether authenticity is more important than practicality!
I hope that this book encourages all kinds of people to try to make their own versions of movie magic – happy sewing everyone!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book ‘Sew Iconic’!
Why not tell me by using the comments box below this post or contact me direct.
Would you like one of the featured garments in the book to form a Fashion Sewing Blog sew-along?
Do let me know.
Happy fashion sewing
Colleen G Lea