The Reveal: Vivienne Westwood Challenge

Button1My apologies for posting the results of the Challenge weeks after I said I would!  Especially to Kate and Ruth who submitted their entries promptly. I was hoping that a few more entries might feed through by now.  If anyone is still working on their VW project, please do email me when you finish and I can update this post with your entry.

Kate embraced the challenge very bravely by making a version of a Vivienne Westwood jacket that she has from a self-drafted pattern.  The original is characterized by soft ‘waterfall’ lapels.  Kate’s own version is a gorgeous splash of blue (is it azure or cyan?!) which shows off the design better, I think, than had she used a busy check.  Kate’s design and construction details are in this post (including a picture Kate wearing the very lovely original jacket).  The finished jacket and pictures of are in this post.  Kate, you’re a mistress of skill and style!  Thanks for taking part.

1 Kate

And here’s the always-amazing Ruth.  Ruth chose to make a dress that incorporated favourite elements of different Vivienne Westwood dresses.  She too drafted her own pattern and used the challenge as an opportunity to learn from Draping: the Complete Course (this book has such good reviews – I reckon I know where my challenge is coming from!)   As if this wasn’t enough, she has made a very versatile dress that can be worn in different ways, including off- shoulder.  Clever and gorgeous, you bet!

1 Ruth

1 Ruth, back

Ruth has written several posts about her project: make sure you read the comments too and you’ll get to find out where to get some dangerously cute shoes 🙂

2 RuthThe back story and design experimentation blogged here.

Pictures of the different ways the dress can be worn: here.

Construction details and close-ups: here.

Thanks so much for taking part, Ruth.  You always embrace a challenge with such enthusiasm.

Now, for a little diversion: I found this thesis written by a designer who has worked as an intern for Vivienne Westwood – he describes his experiences in chapter 2.  It’s an enlightening read which might make you feel better if you’ve struggled with your own pattern drafting.  My conclusion is that talent or experience gets you so far but a team of experts, a living model at your disposal and the opportunity to create multiple drafts also play their part in the designers studios.

For my part in the challenge, I slightly changed a Burda Magazine Crossover Blazer pattern (06/2012/#121), aiming for an early 80s Pirate Collection look.  I struggled to find a tartan in the right colour as I cannot bear wearing red (nor orange nor yellow for some reason), whereas blue or green tartan looks great but it also looks like the local girl school kilt… so I ended up with a check, almost identical to Ruth’s, from Unique Fabrics (28 Goldhawk Road).  The inside is of  superfine pincord from Rashid.

Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012 121 buttoned up 2

Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012 121  4

This is my first ever jacket, buttonholes n’ all,  which I haven’t been able to wear as result of the freakishly warm weather we’ve been having for weeks 🙂  (Honestly, I’ve seen so much sun already this year that almost all the cellulite off my ass has melted away!)  So, you’re the first people to see this, if you don’t count the various kids that pass through the living room space I daren’t call “my studio”.  What do you think?  Personally I think it’s fine, but the collar is … lazy.  I shall post a dedicated pattern review soon though.Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012 121  Sleeve buttonhole detailThanks so much for reading, for your helpful suggestions and for taking part.  As Ruth said, it was a difficult challenge, but I hope it’s pushed our skills up a notch and inspired us to try more!

And Add Sleeve

1 Sleeve quarter1 Royal crescent curveDo you like this: instead of a sleeve, a cap is formed from three 25cm strips of fabric in a kind of braid-arrangement looping over or under each other?  I wanted something unusual-looking to complete the asymmetrical blouse and the idea came from a cheap jersey top I bought from H&M  – don’t judge me –  probably in 2011 and which had similar sleeves.  It’s a top I kept in a rag drawer long after it wore out with the idea of copying it some day, but guess what?  I decided during a recent clear out that I was never going to find the time to copy it so I chucked it.  Oh, what a plonker!  1 Sleeve plan

Last week I spent hours puzzling over how to size the pieces and how to fit them to resemble the original’s grace and harmony.  This is Draft #1.  It looks fine but takes some adjustment (fiddling) in order to do so.

1 MaybeA tartan diversion: the pictures above were taken by my mum outside the apartment in which we were staying in Edinburgh last week.  We went there for her birthday and for me to run the Edinburgh Marathon.  Check out my pre-race bin bag couture:  no cheap black stuff for me…1 Binbag Couture

Simple Human bin bags are probably more expensive than some of the fabrics that I buy but they were all I could find under the kitchen sink on a wet Sunday morning.  Besides, the drawstring made such a handy waistband for the skirt!

You might find interesting this sample of Tartan I found in Greyfriars with the explanation of why certain colours made it into the weave.  Click to enlarge the text: it’s a good read.  I wonder what my tartan would have.  Black, of course, then green, turquoise and blue of the Dalmatian coast where I’m from.  Shocking pink is nice too!  What would you choose?  I found my recent hunt for tartan rather disappointing with all colours on offer reminding me of school kilts.

1 Greyfriars Tartan

Create Chunky Neckline Pleats

1 Chunky pleatsSo, The Vivienne Westwood Challenge!  I’ve had to postpone the deadline to a more manageable Saturday, 7th June (email  your submissions any time; I stay up late!).  If you’re trying to plump up the courage to make something, you may like this easy drafting project.  The approach is more butchery than couture but it seems to work.  You’ll end up with an asymmetric, sleeveless top (though you can add sleeves, as I will do).  It’s particularly cute if you turn your fabric on the bias.

You will need:

  • A bodice block, copied, darts moved to waist (as in this tutorial)
  • 1.5 – 2 metres, depending on your size (and whether or not you’d like sleeves) of lightweight check or plaid fabric.  Mine is a linen/cotton blend at £6 per metre from Rolls and Rems
  • Plenty of paper.  I often draft on packing paper that arrives stuffed into boxes of online shopping which I press with a hot, dry iron.

CHUNKY NECKLINE PLEATS TUTORIAL

3 trace bodice

1. Move bodice front darts to waist and trace

4 Draw neckline

2. Lower neckline by e.g. 10cm. Narrow shoulder seam to e.g. 6cm

6 Cut on double

3. Draw a more shapely side seam to desired length. Pin onto another paper layer and cut

Bodice Front ready to start

4. Join left and right (I know this looks wonky, but it’s the tilt of the camera, I think!)

1 Bodice front slash and spread

5. Draw a grainline (Centre Front). Draw where you want the pleats to appear. Extend to the seam and slash. Note how my pleats extend to the two side seams and the hem. Label pieces.

1 Straight grain to sg

6. Draw grainline on target paper. Pin grainlines together

1 Spread on target paper

7. Pin the remaining pieces in order, making sure that they’re anchored together at seams. I have deliberately made the three gaps in the neckline different measurements. e.g. 8c.m, 10cm and 9cm

1 define

8. Trace all around then remove top layer

1 Fold pleats and pin

9. Pin pleats closed (try to be accurate and press with a dry iron if necessary!)

1 add seam allowances and cut

10. Draw a seam allowance/hem allowance and cut out. Before unpinning pattern, use it to make a pattern for the facing (5cm depth plus seam allowances)


Back Bodice 

You will need to make a pattern for the back too but this is relatively simple.  You will need to:
1. Trace the Bodice Back Block/Sloper
2. Draw an elegant neckline: Firstly, lower the back of the neck by 5cm approx.  Make the shoulder seam the same width as the front of the bodice, e.g. 6cm and join to the centre with a smooth curve.
3. Place the front pattern over the back and trace the side seam and hem so they’re the same at front and back.
4.  If you have a shoulder dart in your back block, it’ll be quite reduced by the time you’ve lowered the neckline.  You can sew gathering stitches here and ease this area instead of sewing a dart in the neckline.
5. Draw seam allowances and make a pattern for the back facing.

Cutting: Remember to place the grainline on bias for a looser, more draped effect.

Ask if you have any questions about sewing the top and good luck.

1t Check linen cotton mix

The F Word (Frumpy…)

When I think of Vivienne Westwood – the person – the first incarnation that comes to mind isn’t the veteran punk-queen designer nor the politicized eco-warrior with campaigns close to my own heart.  Instead, I think of the famed exit she made from the premiere of the film Sex and the City.  Although citations are proving hard to find, the general consensus is that she couldn’t watch more than 10 minutes and found the clothes frumpy and boring.  I can just hear her soft Derbyshire tones uttering this, with clicks of contempt.

This is the jacket I’ll be attempting to make, in plaid, for my part in the Vivienne Westwood Challenge.1t Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012  no121

For ages now, I’ve admired its diagonal lines, the turn back cuffs and the potential in the matching of two contrasting inner and outer fabrics.  That balance of tailoring-meets-rock n’ roll is pretty rare in sewing patterns, I think.Technical drawing burda 6 2012 #121 But, having got hold of the technical drawing, I find the design simple and boxy and it’s hard to believe it’s the same jacket.    Not so much the soldier-turned-highwayman look of Adam Ant that I’d set my sights on.  More over-starched waiter in a dull restaurant.

I’m wondering what my chances are of turning this pattern into something that looks more like this:1t Tartan jacket

When I look closely at this Vivienne Westwood design, three key features that make it different from the Burda pattern stand out:

1 There are waist darts all the way to bust point.  Ok, so this jacket is designed for a woman.  I get it.

2.  There’s a waist seam that drops down diagonally towards the side seams (another dart control?).  This seam sits a good inch higher than where most of us assume our waist to be (an inch above the belly button).  As before, this flatters the female shape to the max.

3. Finally, the asymmetrical collar, notched on one side and extended on the other.  Why did it have to be this way?  It reminds me of one of those naturally asymmetrical, sexy hairstyles that have a lot of movement.  It’s a good trick that brings the design to life.

What do you think are my chances of upgrading a $6 Burda pattern into clever couture?  I’ve got enough frumpy already.  Can you help out with links to interesting plaid/tartan suppliers that can lift this out of the ordinary?

I’ll leave you with a couple of links to blog posts where some clever analysing and copying of Vivienne Westwood design has taken place.  Here’s a clear tutorial from Orchids in May on making one of those asymmetrical and gloriously voluminous draped skirts.  I wish I had a half-scale model to practise this on, with the pinstripe leftovers in the stash.

The other post is from blogger Catherine Daze: the striped jersey dress.  Although not as dramatic as the VW original, the end result, like the skirt by Orchids in May, is accomplished, unordinary and wearable.

Encouraging signs.