Dresses and Hats: In Search of the Just Right for Now Designs.

Imagining this:

There I am in a chic city – right now – moderate temperature, a happy sun in the sky – not too intense, a bit of a breeze. I might walk to my destination, or perhaps take the metro, city bus, or a taxi and I don’t want to call the wrong type of attention to myself. The dress I’m postulating is modest. When I sit, it doesn’t ride up. Due to this dress, I have the look of a polished, well-put-together lady – with a head full of important and artistic thoughts. When I walk in the breeze, the dress moves gracefully around me, but doesn’t billow up – threatening exposure.

Now on my head I have a hat – there in that chic city – and I want it to stay on my head. Maybe, when I get to where I’m going, I’ll remove the hat – with a flourish – for a moment… so my hair should stay nice and neat beneath the hat. This hat doesn’t make my head hot, and this hat is small enough to allow other people to see around me – wherever I am. This hat stays on my head – even in an unexpected gust of wind – and should it rain, this hat is not forever ruined. This hat also makes me look like a polished, well-put-together lady – with a head full of important and artistic thoughts.

As I breeze past, onlookers think – my goodness, what an interesting lady… I wonder what she’s thinking.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

A dress and a hat to embody the persona of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis… in essence, refined. However, the Cassini/Halston look of the sixties requires some twenty-first century mindset to fit into today’s context.

For daytime, substitute a clever-something for the pearls. I think the daytime accessory should read “smart”, not “pricey”.  Notice, Jackie’s hat is brimless. I’m postulating a just-right-for-now hat with a brim, to provide a little shade. “Just right” would be a hat with a brim not so large that I have to turn my head to see you from the corner of my eye. “Just right” would be a hat with a brim small enough to allow me to wear super-sized shades when I desire privacy.

Tagged , , , ,

Clever Vintage Blouse Construction…and a Grand Bell Hat: VPLL.

If fashions of the past make your heart thump a little faster, don’t miss out on Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s great design collections. Earlier in the year I’d learned of VPLL’s Titanic project, which involves recreating 1912 fashions from La Mode Illustree – a major turn-of-the-century sartorial arbiter. As a project volunteer, I test-sewed a hat, two women’s blouses, and a child’s apron.

Test-sewing the hat was an unusual experience for me – as I’d never created a hat with a wire armature. However, the Ladies’ Spring Hat depicted a frame… so I produced a small-scale practice model. As life goes, other responsibilities began to demand my time – but I still like to check VPLL’s Titanic progress… and was ecstatic to discover a new hat pattern there tonight!

Check this link to see the beautiful hat project – this time it’s a Bell Hat (much like the ones Marc Jacobs presented in his Fall 2012 Louis Vuitton collection!) You’ll see this hat is also based on a wire armature – but, using a stiffer fabric, one might avoid the necessity for the framework structure.

Louis Vuitton Fall 2012 by Marc Jacobs. Runway collections image at Vogue.com.

Now, the other thing that may excite you (especially if you sew) – is this 1912 La Mode Illustree blouse design, which is fabulously engineered so that the side-body and sleeve are in one piece. You just have to see it to understand, so don’t miss the link directly above.

Small-scale toile created to test La Mode Illustree 1912 Blouse 0219. Toile La La toile and photo.

VPLL has recently announced they have a sufficiency of volunteers, but don’t fret… you can still investigate the website to see the great work of VPLL’s testers, view vintage fashion illustrations, and look for great sewing patterns!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Dresses and Hats: Comme des Garcons Fall 2012 Runway Videos.

It was exciting to find this Kawaii Kakkoii Sugoi blog link featuring the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 men’s and women’s Ready-to-Wear runway collections of Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons.

I’d been noticing the unusual dresses of Kawakubo’s Fall 2012 collection pictured in several fashion publications, but was even more imaginatively-inspired when I saw the Kawaii Kakkoii Sugoi fashion videos with both men’s and women’s presentations.

I particularly like these dress-within-a-dress styles, which I could imagine being scaled down for a very figure-flattering look. The colored wigs seem like a safe and worry-free haircoloring option. The menswear kilt styles are very nice and I was glad to see the great variety of hats as well.


Dress-Within-a-Dress. Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Fall 2012. Image Collections at Vogue.com.

Tagged , , , , ,

Madame Agnes 1937 Zipper Hat.

Madame Agnes Millinery zipper hat. Illustration from Woman’s Home Companion October 1937 “Taken from the French” article. Scan by Toile La La.

Appearing in Woman’s Home Companion of October 1937, this hat is described by  Marjorie Howard in an article “Taken from the French”:  “…intended primarily for October weekends when you travel in a car and must curtail your luggage… a long curved strip of felt with metal slide fastenings artfully disposed along the edges. You begin at the top, slip one end of the fastening into the other and wind spirally till your hat emerges, crown, brim, and all. And it really works for I have tried it. To pack you unzip and roll the strip into a ball.” Howard continues to say she’s not sure a home-milliner could “succeed” in creating her own zipper hat as “it is pretty tricky to cut. Agnes told me that it took her three weeks of experimentation to work it out properly. The curve has to be as accurate as in an engineer’s working model.” Fascinating!

Tagged , , ,

Heirloom Embellishments for Vintage Sewing.

In the 25th anniversary issue of Sew Beautiful, there appear many wonderful examples of antique embroidery and French sewing techniques – many dating back to Victorian times. Included are directions for embroidered eyelets, granito dots, joining lace to lace, adding entredeux panels, puffing, shark’s teeth points, and adding shaped lace embellishments.

During the time I was test-sewing La Mode Illustree Patterns for Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s Titanic Project, I would have particularly appreciated reading about these techniques.  Now I’ve moved on to other projects, but thought some of you might like to see these instructions for eyelets and for embroidered granito dots.

Heirloom embroidery techniques: eyelet, granito dot. 25th Anniversary Issue Sew Beautiful 2012.

Blouse 1000 La Mode Illustree (at VPLL) featured granito dot embroidery, scalloped edges, pintucks, and a peplum. The blouse pattern did not include embroidery instructions, although specific placement of the granito dots was pictured on the pattern.

I was happy to discover these stitches illustrated in Sew Beautiful (which featured the work of Margaret Boyles -appointed “First Lady of Needlwork” by Sew Beautiful.)

Tagged , , ,

Edwardian Hat Photographs 1913-1915.

I was delighted to find these beautifully-photographed vintage images of women’s hats at Retronaut.

There you’ll see over twenty hats of very impressive millinery artistry – from the sophisticated to the avant garde.

If you enjoy learning about history via imagery, Retronaut is the spot for you – living up to its credo:  “The Past is a Foreign Country. This is Your Passport.”


Tagged , , ,

Schiap’s Caps: Out of the Box, Ready to Amuse.

Images of Elsa Schiaparelli’s hats always entertain me.  The magnitude of the variety of her workshop’s millinery designs is very impressive.

My favorite Schiaparelli hat, by far, is the Hen in a Nest or sitting hen hat.  I wonder if it might have been inspired by the silhouette of military side caps…, but however Schiaparelli hatched the idea – a chicken hat, perched on the head, is unmistakably playful.

Eric fashion illustration of Elsa Schiaparelli Hen in a Nest hat.

The Shoe hat, Salvador Dali-imagined (and Schiaparelli-produced), seems to me “old hat” perhaps because it appears frequently in our modern media – with a reputation of being one of Elsa Schiaparelli’s more outrageous designs.

Gala Dali (right) in the Dali-Schiaparelli Shoe hat.

Despite its quirky charm, I doubt the Shoe or slipper hat would facilitate standing on one’s head.

Leave comments about your favorite Schiaparelli hat.

For a by-no-means-complete (but a good start all the same) review of Schiap’s caps, see this link at Toile La La, with images and descriptions of Elsa Schiaparelli millinery.



Tagged , , , , ,

Hats: Contemporary and of the Past.

Hat-thought has occupied quite a bit of my brain-space – for two years now – though I’ve been intrigued by hats since the unveiling of some my Nana inherited from a Great-Aunt when I was a teen.  I’ve read about, made, and researched hats and millinery history.  For a time, millinery played a wallflower role, but now circumstances seem right again for hats to make an appearance.

Before attending the Savannah College of Art and Design fashion show this year, I created this small dressmaker hat “Cameo” – worn here by my charming model… but you’ll also see it in my shadow silhouette below.

Cameo has an asymmetric design defined with black piping and black buttonhole-twist hand-stitching.

Cameo Hat made this year for SCAD fashion show visit. Millinery design by  Toile La La.

Toile La La wearing Cameo Hat in Savannah, GA.

The Cameo Hat perched fixed at an angle on my head, with the strength of a snapped-in-half dime-store comb and two bobby pins – all of which I stitched inside the hat using thin elastic thread.  Since my hair is straight, not curly like that of my charming model, I twisted it into a ballerina bun and and anchored the hat against it with the comb.  You’ll see the model is wearing a headband under the hat – but that was merely to keep her bangs out of her lashes.

For hat-security, I did consider using a millinery-specific elastic at the back of the hat, but didn’t have time to search for elastic to match my hair – although black would have worked fine.

Recent trips to Chicago, Illinois and Denver, Colorado prompted a lot of hat thoughts – as I wore a store-bought sunhat which was determined to either sail off my head or shield my vision like horse-blinders.  It did however provide good sun-protection, shielding my eyes, face, neck and shoulders.  The problems it created did set the gears of my designing-mind whirring:  Is it better to have a hat that ties under the chin.  How do you design a hat that protects the face without obstructing the vision in each turn of the head?  What materials can be used to screen the sun and still permit air-flow?

As it seems most of our hat-wearing in recent decades has been either decorative (for instance, at the Kentucky Derby) – utilitarian sports or job-specific (baseball-type caps with tight bands or cowboy hats), these practical aspects of hat-wearing have rarely been addressed.

In the past, hat-wearers utilized built-in elastic or ribbon bands and of course – hatpins.  The pinning of the hatpin seems to be a skill acquired through practice, but I did find a very nice Vixen Vintage post with hatpin how-tos, so here’s a link.

Tagged , ,

Bebe Bouton’s Real Live Enormous Pompon Zinnia Bonnet.

In case you ever wondered what happened to Bebe Bouton… . She now has a “tuta” suit (like those described by Italian Futurists of the 1940’s), and she is searching for the perfect floral hat. See more of her choices at my Toile La La blog.

Bebe Bouton in Her Enormous Pompon Zinnia Bonnet. Photo Toile La La.

Tagged , , ,

Early Twentieth Century Sewing Sampler Journal.

Overcasting Stitch Quilting Swatch from Great-Grandmother’s Sewing Sampler.
Scanned by Toile La La.

Small Pillowcase in Great-Grandmother’s Sewing Sampler. Scanned by Toile La La.

Small-scale Apron Toile from Great-Grandmother’s Sewing Sampler. Scanned by Toile La La.

Great-Grandmother’s Apron Toile Close-Up. Scanned by Toile La La.

Closure Techniques from Great-Grandmother’s Sewing Sampler. Scanned by Toile La La.

Buttonhole Samples from Great-Grandmother’s Normal School Sampler. Scanned by Toile La La.

Sock and Stocking Darning Sample from Great-Grandmother’s Journal. Scanned by Toile La La.

“Hem Stitching, Tucking, Rolling and Whipping” – Stitch Techniques from Great-Grandmother’s Sampler. Scanned by Toile La La.

Embroidery Detail on a Patch-Sample from Great-Grandmother’s Journal. Scanned by Toile La La.

“Straight and Bias Darn, Three-Cornered Darn, Darn with a Patch” – Great-Grandmother’s Sewing Sampler. Scanned by Toile La La.

Detail of Cover and Twine Closure for Great-Grandmother’s Sewing Sampler Journal. Scanned by Toile La La.

My Great-Grandmother Myrtle attended a “normal school” (which was a turn-of-the-century training institute) when she was a young teen and there she learned to weave and sew – among other things.  My great-great-grandparents came from meager means and Myrtle was one of thirteen children – and the school was 90 miles away, but somehow she went.  And, somehow this sewing sampler journal survived.

My Nana married Myrtle’s son and must have been impressed with the little booklet because she saved it and I can remember her showing me the miniature pillowcase and apron when I was a child.

Tagged , , , ,