For your fingernails

rené-gruau-dior-vernisAlways in pursuit of time-consuming hobbies, I would like to learn crochet. I went to a meeting of knitters and crocheters and soon realized something that surprised me very much : a lot of the girls there wore nail polish (I see tons of  fancy nail polish on fashion blogs, but don’t tend see much of them in real life). But after a while it made sense : as knitters, their hands are constantly close to heir eyes, no wonder they’re drawn to take special care of those! They reminded me of my friend Juliette, who sews a lot by hand and has brigh red nails.

My own hands are not that pretty. I’m afraid I don’t take care of them properly, and never polish my nails. Unfortunately, my nails don’t have the beautiful, delicate almond shape I admire on others. a few months ago, they even began to mutate : like anybody playing a string instrument, the nails of my left hand have shortened, and the tip of my fingers have hardened. Two features that are not particularly feminine, but make me happier than any of my vain attemps to polish my nails : whereas I used to try to make my hands as ‘neutral’ as possible, these very hands have become a sign. They now say something about me, people can now decipher them. I wish it were that simple with clothes…

Effortlessly chic

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Such a fascinating expression.

First, the sound : effortlessly chic, the blowing, whistling, deceptively langourous first four syllables, and then, like an exclamation point, the final bang of the chic, a word clever enough to draw a smile on the face of whoever pronounces it…

Then, the meaning : to me, being chic would already  be a lot to achieve, and I can’t understand how to do it wihout any effort. Even supposedly ‘tried & true’ formulas seem difficult to me : how can you be sure you little black dress won’t have any plush on it? that the white shirt will fit properly on your shoulders, that it won’t be see-through, that there will be no gap at the bust? that the basic trench coat won’t crease, and that I will close the belt elegantly? Not to mention the never-lasting eye-liner, the chignon turning into a mane at eleven in the morning, the necklace whose clasp always seems to be on the front… I can’t help thinking that, behind the Sartorialist‘s smart amazons, there is a lot of reflection, anticipation, techniques, tips and tricks, know-how, experience : in short, a lot of work.

And yet, to be effective, all this work has to be overcome by delicately swaying your head, by a vague dance step, a gentle smile : a light, relaxed attitude. Effortlessly chic : when thinking of this expression, I feel like the draft of a girl.

At ‘Made in France’

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Last week, I accompanied someone I currently work with to Made in France, “salon de la haute façon”, an annual trade show rassembling France’s best toll manufacturers. That was the first time I visited a trade show, and I discovered a special atmosphere… as well as the samples displaying the manufacturers’ best work.

There were some prestigous brands on the labels. Balmain, Kenzo, a lot of Balenciaga, a few English brands, Sonia Rykiel or Agnès B. We were interested in coats, but I realized that most of those brands sell them around €1000 or much, much more. It’s certainly not the first time this question pops up (more here if you’re fluent in French) but who, in France, can still afford to wear something made in France? I guess the same goes with most western countries…

I won’t answer to this question, but the manufacture’s representatives certainly did ; they wear their products pretty well, and they’re always happu to show you an incredibly interfaced jacket, a pair of shorts with the seams entirely bound in satin, or a cashmere jacket with seams so perfect that it doesn’t need a lining. After marvelling at those techniques, I felt like a pretty hopeless seamstress, but also realized that first, I was rather ashamed of my trench coat from the Gap, and then, that without being really conscious of it, it had been six months since I last bought something from H&M or Uniqlo, my favorite ready-to-wear stores. Ever since, I feel funny while thinking about a grandmother’s sensible words : “I can’t afford cheap things”… Damn.

Bloom!

jupe qui tourneIsn’t spring fabulous? Always managing to make me doubt of its very existence, then appearing when I forgot everything about its supposed come-back (and letting me die of heat under my winter coat). But some parisians remembered to hear the weather report this week and sat in shirts at tables outside of the cafés, and the trees were blooming around Vincennes (a parisian suburb where I’ve been working these two last weeks). Even the parc de Bercy (a garden not far from my usual movie theater) seemed greener, probably supporting the collective effort. Then, what about my own spring project?

jupe détails

Not only did I make the mistake to have a pajama break, but I was foolish enough to start three projects at a time (as if being practical wasn’t enough of a problem for me). The project is a simple circle skirt made in sunny yelow and blue madras. I love how full and high-waisted it is! I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be part of the rockabilly-inpired wardrobe that seems to be on trend for this spring, but if fashionistas want to go to dance, this is certainly the right skirt to wear. It’s really nothing special (even for me!), but I chose to hem it wih a matching Liberty bias, too; the kind of detail  I’ll be the only one to notice, but am sure to enjoy every time I put the skirt on. When I went out this morning, spring was actually gone, but at least I still have the flowers…

(and now, if someone can explain why on these pictures my knees are twice as pink _and not as pretty_ as those of the creatures Marguerite Sauvage draws, I’d be curious to know…)

Mini bloomers & men’s pajamas

I look rather silly, sort-of-dancing like that, but hey, I was listening to the Kinks (at least I had fun)!

Yes, it’s been a long time! But that was actually the time it took me to move my blog (super tough for a definitely-not-geek person) and decide whether I wanted to post (bad) pictures of me wearing bloomers on the world-wide-web. Surprisingly, the answer is yes! Why? because to me, style depends on homewear and lingerie as much as it depends on “regular” clothes.

The latter express the social aspect of style, affecting on the infamous ‘first impression’ to the eyes of strangers, communicating our mood to our close ones, but I believe that what is hidden under those clothes, or in the privacy of homes and bedrooms, says a lot about people. Some only take their clothes off only at bedtime, some take off their shoes and change their whole outfit as soon as they’re at home. Some women would rather go naked than wear mismatched undergarments, some men could cry after the ragged, yet beloved cocoon that once was their nightrobe. As for myself, I might actually trade ten years of my life against the gift to sew my dream underwear. This being said, it’s not a surprise that one of my goals for this year is to practice sewing homewear… Here is what I’ve been up to lately.

It all begun with menswear-inspired pyjamas, a fantasy of mine I was reminded of by this image, made out of a vintage pattern designed by one of my personnal icons, designer John Kloss. As I had lots of this fabric, I also made a camisole and Madeleine mini bloomers (I’m thrilled with those). I’m only half happy with my sets, as both the camisole and the shirt are filled with errors and wonky stitches. I tried to make french seams and other fancy stuffs I don’t want to bother my readers with, but looking back at it I realize how silly it is to work so long on a poor quality fabric. Dear pyjamas, I swear that not only your next version will be neater, but that I will cut it in no less than Hermès cotton shirting!

On planned wardrobes

spring-essentialsFor clothes lovers, sewing (if you’re sufficently experienced, that is), is a kind of superpower  you no longer need to rush to the stores for something that fits or simply for whatever specific item you’re eager to wear, all you have to do is to sew!

Yet, it’s only recently that I really understood what sewing could really offer (but also the rigour it should imply). Indeed, till now I had only sewn one thing at a time, when I had an idea. If something went wrong with it, I could simply let it down: it was only about one garment more or less in my wardobe. But lately, the sewing blogosphere began to use words I had previously read only on the fashion/style blogs, talking about “capsules” or “palettes”…

My reflection began with this comment of Balibulle on the Alexa Chung collection for Madewell. “I want everything… and nothing in particular. Which, to my eyes, perfectly sums up Chung’s style : rather than specific pieces, a way to associate them. Maybe we could all dress like her with what’s in our closets, if only we KNEW how to do so”. At the time, I thought that yes, building a style had little to do with my “magpie” way to pick a few cute, but isolated garments, but rather with owning a coherent wardrobe, like the scale from which you can start playing variations.

I first tried to do this with Ali’s Summer Essentials Sew-along, a playful proposition to sew a mini-suitcase for summer, but lacked of time to make it. Then, Zoe approached the question differently: not in terms of element to plan on a long term, but in terms of colors as a base to build on. Then I got lucky: as a sequel to what had already been said on the subject, the Colette patterns team launched the Spring Palette challenge, which has already been helpful to structure my future projects. I planned too much at first and had to reduce my ambitions, but realized that once more, the most important was not the deadline, neither neither the number of garments I could sew, but how much I want to sew each and every one of them, in order to compose a wardrobe I could live and play with. I think I might be growing up…

About outfit pictures

Bloody hell. When I wrote my new year resolutions, I took the decision to document my daily life and outfits. My small flat lacking of light, and lacking myself of photographic skills and talent, I totally neglected this part, even if I was pleased with some of my outfits (Dr Sketchy’s Weimar Berlin, January 9th), went out of my comfort zone (New Burlesque Revue, January 25th), or even wore the best skirt I ever made (Andrée Putman exhibition, January 26th) during this month. At first I hoped I could wait for a photography class to improve my technique, but this is no longer an option.

I wonder if all these reasons are not mere excuses to avoid taking outfit pictures: I fear that what I thought cute might happen to be banal, that the colour of the skirt might never appear as it is, that my figure might look awkward, and my self-conscious face grimacing.

Photographic skills are one thing, and I’ll try my best to do without it, at first. But those who, on pictures, have a natural expression and a radiant complexion, what is their secret?

Spring planning

palette-de-printempsI don’t blog, but hey, I sew and think nevertheless! My man’s pajama is 3/4 finished, I now have a new (lined) skirt, and have decided to join Colette pattern’s Spring palette challenge, as it fitted well in my wishes for a coherent wordrobe. First step for this week : choosing a palette as the starting point of a mini-collection, so that the clothes I sew might go together, for once!

So, I rummaged a bit in my stash, only to realize later that my new palette matched pretty well with those A.P.C. lookbooks that remained completely forgotten in my files. The mysteries of inspiration… To be continued!

A sewing year

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As stated before, one of my hopes for 2011 is to become a better seamstress. More experienced, of course, more careful, more diligent, but also more sensible, with the ambition of filling the ‘holes’ of my already pretty full, but not functional wardrobe. I don’t know if I will be able to tackle all this before the end of the year but it doesn’t really matter _ Tasia’s list and Ali’s capsule wardrobe were inspirations for my project, and none of them has an absolute deadline. Let’s just say I’d be very happy and proud of myself if I had sewn:

  • Lingerie. Or more generally, loungewear. I’m currently sewing a pajama, but I’m envisionning satin slips and silk velvet robes… Techniques to try out : biais, french seams and other delicate finshings (maybe even lace!), delicate fabrics.
  • Stretch projects. T-shirts to begin with, but the next step will obviously be dresses. What I will learn : how to use my serger!
  • A dress made after one of my (many) vintage patterns. And, if possible, more than one. For someone who considers dresses as the most ‘magical’ sort of garment (with coats), I really don’t wear enough of them. To try out: how to fit, and fancy finishings.
  • A new skirt. Or more : for summer, winter, full and flounced, pleated, mini, panelled… The main point is that I would like them to be as pretty from the inside as they might be in the outside. Techniques to try out : lining (how the hell would you line a pleated skirt?) and fancy finishings.
  • An accessory. I tend to neglect bags, purses and hats, whereas they can be really quick, fun projects.
  • Trousers. More elaborate than those I’ve already made, please, with darts, fitted waist, and weird stuff like adjusting the crotch length.
  • A blouse. More feminine and simple to make than a shirt, yet more elaborate than a t-shirt. I will have to work on collars, cuffs, and watch the way I finish my garments (as they’ll be closer to the eye than pants or skirts)… The logical evolution would be a fitted shirt, with a stand collar and buttons. Wow!
  • A jacket. Or even a coat. I know that tailoring is no picnic, full of creepy techniques I don’t fully understand, but I’d be happy to sew a little, say, corduroy jacket with a lining…

That’s only eight points for twelve big months, but I feel pretty ambitious as it is (not to mention the fact that I generally hope to make more than one garment of each category)… BUT instead of writing this post earlier, I progressed a lot on my pajamas, which is a pretty good sign, isn’t it?

Fresh start

 

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New Year, new blog. I usually prefer to take good resolutions in september, but this January month happens to be very special for me. Here are a few of those that will hopefully have their place on this blog. In 2011, I hope I will:

  • Find my style. I wish there were a slightly less naive formulation, but that’s exactly what this is about; I have more clothes than I need but they’re never the right ones, at the right time : too large, not matching, or simply not me. In one year, I would like my close ones to see me coming and say “Hey, this is Carlotta, dressed like Carlotta, and it looks good!”. One the same subject, I’d like to learn a bit more about make up and hairdo.
  • Improve my sewing skills. Directly related to former point. I’m a messy, lazy half-beginner with no will to challenge myself, and it’s more than time to use the lovely patterns and fabric that currently occupy my parisian flat. More about that soon.
  • Learn about photography. Not only could this happen to be useful in my professional field, but I would like to learn about photomontage, a family tradition.
  • Document my daily life. Because I will never find my style, improve my sewing skills or practice photography if I cannot put all of that somewhere where I can look back at it and learn from my mistakes!
  • Keep playing music. Beginning to learn ukulele is definitely one of the best things I’ve done in 2010.
  • Keep being curious. Whereas curious, I’ve been lazy and especially shy for too long. I hope this blog will support this, too.

So, 2011 here I come!