I've been looking to finish my own "French (Chanel inspired) Jacket" this year so I turned to an expert for some inspiration and encouragement in doing so. Susan Khalje is THE expert and has been making, teaching how to make and writing about making these Iconic pieces for many years. She is also my own Couture instructorRead More
Welcome to Part 2 in my Journey to Filoli - Doesn't that sound like the start of a public television announcement? It really was such hot day, all I really wanted to do was jump in that amazing pool, built in the 1930's at the estate...Read More
Built by Willis Polk between 1915 - 1917 for one of the wealthiest gold mine owners in California, Filoli House, sits amidst 654 acres of country land near the town of Woodside CA, in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a majestic home fit for fine living.
Earlier this Summer, I took a trip to visit Filoli house.....Read More
This Dress was a long time coming. I started working on it in November of last year. Originally, I intended to make it from a wool crepe and that the red rayon would be a wearable muslin. Using the Colette Patterns Oolong Dress pattern (purchased for 1/2 price, when they were discontinuing the pattern), I decided to make one modification - add godets to the skirt in the princess seams to give it a little flip and flare....Read More
After all your wonderful suggestions, I did end up choosing Ladies 1931 Dress from Vintage Pattern Lending Library for my Gatsby Dress. I just can't seem to get enough of those VPLL patterns! More on THAT later. Here is the story of how I came to use a Vintage 1940's dress for my "muslin" prototype....Read More
The Art Deco Society of California's Gatsby Summer Afternoon, is right around the corner. Slated for Sunday, September 10th, this annual event will take place on the majestic grounds of the Dunsmuir Hellman Estate in the Oakland Hills. Hundreds of people enter the grounds dressed to the nines in gorgeous picnic attire....Read More
Summer is my busiest time of year so I only work on projects I can pick up and put down easily and those that travel well. That usually translates into hand sewing or knitting. So, when The Recrafting co., my local (crafting) consignment shop, had a posting a few weeks ago for a Sashiko Sewing class, I could not pass it up.Read More
Who would have guessed that our seemingly demure and always impeccably attired, Art Deco Society of California Secretary, Alice Jurow, would write a book about Vampires? Set in Paris 1929, 3 impossibly chic fashion models work their way into the hearts and souls of numerous suitors, while drinking of their blood, just a little bit. It's a delicious helping of fun, dripping with scrumptious details describing the opulence of the time...Read More
My friend Jonathan invited me to his 30th birthday party. He wanted to leave his OWN roaring 20's in style and asked everyone to come dressed up for the occasion. What a great opportunity to play dress up and put on a made-by-me gown from my favorite era!Read More
As part of my quest to build a "Miss Fisher" wardrobe, I've sewed up three little blouses inspired by separates her character wears in different episodes. This post will show you 3 blouses I have made, starting with one pattern and explain how you can do it too!Read More
Recently, I've given myself the task of creating a "Miss Fisher" wardrobe....Read More
Body Image - That's a tough one for a lot of us. It's not something talked about openly, very often, but a lot of the people I work with seem to be challenged by it, and daily. I've struggled with my own body image over the years as have most of my friends. As a teenager, looking through fashion magazines constantly (wanting to be cool, fashionable and popular), I compared myself to the models on those pages, dressed beautifully & styled to the nines. The comparisons killed me. You see, I've always been my own worst critic. Self criticism and loathing get to the heart of the matter. That internal critic (along with a little external reinforcement - peer pressure, magazines etc.) led me to an eating disorder, hospitalization and a life unmanageable, all by the tender age of 15...Read More
The Annual College of Alameda ADAM (Apparel Design and Merchandising) Fashion Show.
The stage was set in the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Oakland Airport. With a Runway & a DJ, the tables were set for friends, family and fashion professionals. A light lunch was provided. I even got a space at the front (with a VIP sign!). Perfect for viewing the show and seeing the garments up close...Read More
My best friend (Angie, I know you are reading this!) has started to identify herself as a "quilter" in recent days. This was somewhat alarming the first time I heard her say it. I haven't really understand the pull, other than the simple act of sewing. Well, as I was about to find out, it is much more than just stitching some fabric together. It's about color, design, brain work, pattern manipulation (2D this time and not 3D) and ,funny enough, comfort. The process is much easier than trying to fit a garment (again the 2D as apposed to 3D aspect of it). I'm beginning to see the appeal.Read More
Well, the day of the ball arrived and I was prepared! This year's theme was Death on The Nile (the Agatha Christie Murder Mystery) with a focus on Egyptian Revival of the Art Deco era.Read More
This jacket was found at the Vintage Fashion Expo in the Michaan's Auction House out at Alameda point last Fall. I loved it immediately and was pleased to say that it fit fairly well upon first trying it on, all be it, a little loose. This beautifully embroidered piece was only $45, so I nabbed it up and took it home.
Once home, I kept trying it on with different outfits and just found that I felt a bit frumpy in it. Have you ever had this experience? My bust and hips are full, at least in comparison to my shoulders and rib cage. The difference in size is about 3 dress sizes. Yikes. I'm the typical "Pear" - size 4 in the shoulders and rib cage, size 8 in the bust and a 10-12 in my waist andhips. Makes for a difficult fit a lot of the time. Well, this car coat (that's what these short jackets are called) is just a little too "Miss Fisher" to give up, so after close inspection, an alteration seemed in order.
"What to do?" You ask. Well, I say, make it fit in the shoulders. I started by pinning out the shoulder to see how much needed to be reduced - about 2" in the end.
After seam ripping the sleeves off the jacket, I drew a new armhole on the jacket, making the shoulders 2" smaller on each side. This made the armhole quite a bit larger than the sleeve.
In order to reduce the armhole measurement so that the sleeve would fit, I created a dart along the sides of the jacket, as there was no side seam to reduce. This made the bust smaller as well, but that worked out just fine, as the jacket was quite full in the bust already.
The sleeves were sewn back into the garment and the lining pinned in and stitched by hand.
With my jacket altered, and fitted properly, I now love it even more. Time to make an outfit to go with it, don't you think?
The Alameda Antique Faire is a treasure trove of fantastic finds, vintage treasures and upcycled garbage art. There are regular booths that are there without fail each month and then there are some others who’ve jumped at the opportunity to sell their wares. After one thwarted (rained-out) attempt, I made my way, this past weekend, out to Alameda Point for the Antique Faire. I wish I could say that I did it monthly without fail, but really, I only get out there a couple of times a year...Read More
Have you seen Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries? It's an Australian TV show based on the Kerry Greenwood Novels. The series highlights the Honorable Miss Fryne Fisher, who is a lady detective in the 1920's, and is played by the brilliant actress, Essie Davis. TheFryne character is the epitome of the strong, sassy, smart woman that I would love to be. AND she has a fantastic wardrobe.....Read More
An Interview with Vintage Clothing and Pattern Designer,Theresa LaQuey
In preparation for draping my Art Deco Preservation Ball Gown, I reached out for a little advice and encouragement from Couture Vintage Clothing Designer, Theresa LaQuey. She has a wealth of knowledge, after spending many years creating beautiful bespoke creations for ladies with an eye for vintage style. Our Conversation is below.
Additionally, we will be doing another giveaway this week. Theresa has generously given us an autographed copy of one of the Simplicity patterns that she designed. I'll do a random drawing of our email subscribers to see who wins!
Jennifer: Theresa, I'll likely drape a late 20's look in silk charmeuse and chiffon and will probably take a trip to Britex Fabrics for some pretty beaded appliques. A friend gave me a purple and yellow ombre length of silk, that I intend to use for the main part of dress. I think the purple yellow combo will be my ode to Egypt but maybe I'll do a fun head dress as well. I'm still in the planning stages. Do you have any advice as to how I should begin?
Firstly, I so admire your thoughts on draping your gown. If I may make a recommendation, try to find the pattern making and draping book that was printed by the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, Scranton PA, published in 1928?? I think. When I was learning my trade, a dear fellow student gave me a xeroxed copy of that book. It made all sorts of dress making from the 1920s very plain and simple. Just geometry and physics.
I do not give a good review on getting purchased appliqués. I have had very bad experiences with them. They are too stiff and don't look correct. It sounds cruel, but get a dead dress and cut it up. You will do better with it. (note from Jennifer - I think this is a great idea!)
I would like to teach you to bead. I know the Tambour method. It takes about one hundred hours to learn it, and another couple of thousand hours to perfect it. But oh boy it is worth it.
However, purchased appliqués can work. Just make sure they are soft, not stiff. Also, give a call to the Fashion Company in SF. They have carried appliqués and are very great. Be prepared to meet the minimum of $70.
Jennifer: How & When & Where did you first begin studying bespoke sewing and couture design?
Well, my mother was the costume designer at Diablo Valley College (DVC) and my whole family has been stitchers for at least 100 years. My mother was paid so poorly and because of that, I started hanging out in the costume department with my mom at age 5.
(Later in life) I was in the punk scene and got married to the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys. He was a collector of vintage records. That’s when, I started collecting vintage patterns. After we broke up, I started the apparel design program at DVC. It was a fantastic program. If you want to get into design, don’t spend $30,000/year. Go to a community college. It’s an amazing experience.
Then, in 1987, I ended up partnering with Mark Jones, making couture gowns and learning how to bead..
Our very first commission was a wedding gown was a replica from a movie Topper with Constance Bennett and Cary Grant. I had to have foot surgery and I spent my time, in bed with my feet up, beading that gown.
Jennifer: At the Art Deco Preservation Ball 2 Years ago, I was completely impressed with all the glamorous ladies walking around that evening, at the Oakland Scottish Rite. Each woman looked spot-on, and I thought for sure they were all wearing mint condition vintage. Then later that night you were honored with a special display of all the ladies wearing your gowns (I think there must have been over 30 ladies standing up near the stage) and nearly all of the gowns on display were the exquisite designs I had been admiring earlier . It was wonderful seeing the variety of designs you produced from the Art Deco Era and the 1930’s styling in particular. Is this your favorite era? Or just the one most on display?
It’s my favorite era ever. I consider myself more of a mathematician than a designer. It sounds crazy but you are dealing with the geometry of stretch, when it comes to Bias. When you get into the 30’s they are really applying that “wonderful” of the 1920’s to the feminine form. One tip - Avoid Side seams. The 1930’s is my favorite (era) because it’s so unexpected. If you go in there like an explorer, you’ll learn a lot about making clothes.
Jennifer: Are your couture gowns original designs, inspired by the era, do you use vintage patterns or a combination?
A combination of both. We have a joke around the house that I’ve copied so many Adriens that we call them LaQuey-driens. I’ve done plenty of original designs as well. Mainly I do bespoke (gowns) only for friends, these days.
Jennifer: For this year’s preservation ball, I will be draping a gown in the late 1920’s style. When I made my gown two years ago, I made a corset to go under. The pattern was reproduced from a 1920’s pattern and had the perfect silhouette for the straight lines of my gown. I’m planning to do the same this year but for a dress that will have a little more shape appropriate to the later 1920’s. Did you ever make foundation garments for your gowns? Did you build foundations in the garment?
I have built foundation garments into gowns but they are more 1950’s gowns. The thing about 30’s gowns especially, is that they should look like they were blown on to the body and just land there.
Jennifer: Do you have a favorite material to work with for vintage gowns?
Yes, I do - My super-duper favorite - a 1930’s red & white ensemble. A Japanese fabric called Chirimin crepe. It’s a rayon pebble crepe and only 36” wide. You can find it at www.fabrictales.com
These ladies are incredible. The weight of the fabric is incredible.
Then I have a supplier out of the east coast and Los Angeles - Eastern Silk Co. (trade only) they carry 4ply crepe and crepe back satin in 144 colors.
C&J Textiles in NY - the fabric they carry for called Silk Vanity - The colors are gorgeous. I’m working on another gown this month in this fabric.
Jennifer: Along the same lines, do you have a favorite gown that you’ve made? Who did you make it for? Would you describe it for us or do you have a photo?
I do - Do you know of Mr. Pear? I worked with Mr. Pearl last year and we did a dress together for a burlesque artist.
From my own projects I would have to say the Chanel Fireworks dress. It was so hard. All beaded. Black Chiffon with poly-chromatic sequins. Every time you have to knot off each sequin individually. It’s a beautiful evening gown. The woman who wore it is incredibly elegant.
Jennifer: You always look so fantastic when I see you at Art Deco events. Do you dress in Vintage everyday?
I do not wear modern clothing. Most of the time I spend in trousers and a turtleneck. I used to wear beautiful clothing but it always gets ruined. I do not wear makeup either.
I have a pattern for some vintage trousers and have made up about 6 pairs of them. The woman on the cover of the pattern, is standing there, roasting a weenie.
I wear turtle necks in the winter and the rest of the time I wear “The Blouse” which is made from a 1930’s pattern.
Jennifer: After seeing your beautiful couture work for years, I found out that you make sewing patterns as well. What kind of patterns do you specialize in? And where can we buy them?
Simplicity patterns. My sister is Andrea Schewe and she got me the job. She was designing for Simplicity. It’s so crazy. I have 3 sisters. Andrea is 10 years older than me and our older sister convinced her to go to NY.
I went to celebrate my sister's wedding anniversary and Andrea told me to bring my portfolio. I sat down, with Simplicity Patterns, and they looked through my portfolio and they asked me “ What could you do for us?” I did a swing skirt. I made it up. It ended up selling 25,000 copies.
Then, I got assigned Steampunk. I had just done a Steampunk wedding and was so grateful. I became top designer at Simplicity afterward. That means your pattern is outselling everything else. My sister has been top designer as well.
Jennifer: Thank you so much for giving this interview and for generous giveaway of an autographed pattern! Finding out more about you and hearing all your sage advice has been priceless!
YOU can find out more about Theresa and see more photos of her exquisite creations by visiting her Facebook Page.
Having acquired all the materials - wool hat (a la Old Navy), millinery wire, ribbon aplenty and a beautiful feather rose, I was ready to make my hat for the Girl's Inc. Hat's off to Women Who Dare event. Yay! I love decorating hats and making them very special.....Read More