What We Wear Has Meaning
October 8, 2019
I recently read this blog post by Lyn Slater, of “The Accidental Icon”, about our relationship with clothes. In my case, that relationship is getting more complicated due to the ethical and environmental issues associated with the fashion industry. Do I stop buying fabric, use up my stash and start upcycling? Do I only buy clothes from companies that produce clothing with sustainable and ethical practices? I’m grappling with these questions, but in the meantime, I took a hard look at the garments I own to see what they tell me about where I am now. I found meaning in my most loved and worn garments, meaning derived from several sources.
Lyn mentions a collaboration she has begun with some design students at Parsons School of Design. Well, some of my favorite garments are ones that were created at sewing retreats or workshops where the input of creative sewing friends elevated my garment in progress. This kind of side by side, hands on collaboration is one of the joys of attending these workshops and retreats. Below are two examples of garments created in this collaborative way.
“Tuxedo” dress made from 2 upcycled men’s tuxedo shirts in a draping workshop with Christine Mayer, of Berlin, Germany
In London, I spent hours, between two visits, at Joel and Sons Fabrics. I remember the rolls and rolls of printed silks, the helpful, patient man who brought down fabrics I couldn’t reach and swatched them for me. My first purchase from Joel’s was the tweed for this Chanel style jacket.
There is one more way our clothing can have personal meaning and even convey that meaning to others. These are the garments that visually convey a message. One of my favorite sewists on Instagram, @blakandblanca, is a pro at incorporating meaningful messages in the garments she makes. Here is just one example.
Chanel inspired Kalle shirt
(Closet Case pattern)
This is common practice among many fashion designers and is an area of fashion that I find intriguing. I am currently working on an upcycled jacket/top that incorporates a message I like on the pocket of a men’s Espirit de Corps shirt.
I know I want each garment I make or wear to have personal meaning, as those are the clothing items that make me happiest when I wear them. I will continue to give more thought to how I can be a more mindful creator and consumer. In the meantime, we are always happy to collaborate with you here at Josephine’s!
August 5, 2019
I was incredibly fortunate to attend Christine Mayer’s workshop in May on a farm in the San Luis Obispo area of California. I have attended a number of workshops, but this one was one was truly special. Christine is a designer from Berlin, Germany who has been at the forefront of re-purposing vintage garments and textiles into new garments for many years. Her garments have been available in many high-end retail shops around the world. Her latest collection, Asha, means “hope” in Nepalese. Christine worked with the women of the Nepalese mountains to develop these garments and each is hand knit by these women, providing them with a source of independence. All the while Christine teaches workshops around the world to encourage and provide necessary skills for sustainability in the fashion industry.
Our hostess, Melinda Forbes, and her dear friend, Julie Frankel, provided a nurturing atmosphere and farm fresh lunches, snacks and desserts for the group all six days we were together. Melinda and her husband live on 1 ¼ acres full of gardens and a grouping of studios. As weather permitted, we ate and worked outside in their glorious gardens.
The first 3 days of the workshop focused on the skills of Japanese draping. This type of draping involves creating a muslin pattern directly on the dress form. Christine taught us the needed skills with step by step demonstrations and attentive, individual hands on help. Each of us draped a jacket and skirt design provided by Christine.
My jacket muslin in progress
Christine’s demo skirt in progress
She also showed us her process for using the patterns we created to place and piece together fabrics to create the final garment.
We learned how to draft one piece and two-piece sleeves! I discovered it isn’t too hard - just a little math and rulers and such a valuable skill to have!
Day 4 of the workshop fell on Memorial Day. Goodwill just happened to offer a discount on all clothing of 50%, so we happily started the day with some shopping for our upcycling projects.
Janice and Shireen with some Goodwill finds
Once Christine wrangled us all back to the farm, she began demonstrating her process for taking vintage and used garments and creating new garments from them. She showed us how to observe what the fabric wants to do, where to cut, how to remove fullness, how to draw in an armhole, then make a sleeve fit the new opening. This whole process was quite a revelation and really made sense to me. I found a men’s large tuxedo shirt at Goodwill, then Shireen (on the right in the above photo) gave me a 2nd tuxedo shirt that had belonged to her husband. From these 2 shirts came this dress in progress:
I had so much fun draping this dress – the whole process was very freeing and at this point, I knew the workshop would be life-changing for me. I found a creative zone within myself that I had never visited before and came away from the workshop with a newfound fearlessness!
Over the next few mornings, Christine continued to demonstrate and drape several more upcycled garments, then sent us off to make more of our own creations. On the final afternoon, we gathered to model our new garments for the entire group. We were so impressed with what each attendee had made and it was with great reluctance that I said goodbye to all my sewing friends.
Michelle Paganini models her upcycled overdress
Leslie Gelber with her hand sewn, pieced denim dress
Christine is in the planning process for a workshop in Portland, OR next spring.