Mad Men Inspiration

Just finished Janie Bryant's The Fashion File, a book based on her work on Mad Men as a costume designer. I didn't necessarily learn anything new, it just affirmed alot of things I sort of already know. The most aspiring theme is accessorizing.

Growing up in Shanghai, I lived a couple of blocks away from the convention center. so going there for a fashion show with my mom or tech conference with my dad was part of every day life. I learned the latest fashion trend on my way home from school since the most famous clothing market in Shanghai was on the way. Of course, I always passed the magazine stand and checked out the new cover every month on ELLE. Fashion was a way of life and I hope it still will be for me.

I remember my mom used to tell me that great fashion will always be great fashion, just like Coco Chanel's LBD, Dior's new look and jeans that never went out of style. In the book Janie also emphasizes on a few accessories can change the entire look, you don't have to get a brand new wardrobe every season.

I think the great myth about fashion is that you have to be stick skinny to look good. Actually the meaning of couture means custom made and that's all it means. ok, maybe not, when you say couture in France it also means a certain level of craftsmanship in the quality of the garment and the prestige of that label that's associated with it. Nevertheless, couture means well made garment that fits you and a well made and well fitted garment will make anybody look good.

Speaking of fitting, that was my originally inspiration in learning fashion design. Growing up, fit has been talked about among my mom and my aunts as much as the material and design of a garment. We Shanghai girls are known to have very well fitted garments. Janie also emphasizes on taking your garment to a tailor for perfect fit. Well, my mom would say "how do you know if the tailor is doing a good job". Hence I needed to learn what is a good fit.

Learning Fashion Design has turned out to be quite a soul searching experience. I was having alot of thoughts of design choices during last semester's flat pattern final. I ended up going with my gut feeling of what I really really wanted to make. When I finished it, I stepped back and I went "wow, that's really me". Clothing can really tell so much about a person. I feel like I know alot better who I am now.

I'm taking bustier next semester. I've been thinking about what kind of bustier I'm going to make. As I was flipping through the j-crew catalog, I found my answer in this ruched pink organza top.

There was something about it that I love, then I realized I have a picture of a similar ruched pink chiffon Christian Louboutin shoe that I took in London before CL became popular here in the states. Yes, I love that pink ruched look and I wouldn't have it any other way!

In addition, I just found this from the previous FB pix:

also in my inspiration folder:

I have sworn off of pink, since I've made two pink dresses and a pink jacket. I thought about other colors, but it just won't be the same. but you know, like Janie said, I need to trust my instinct about style. so I guess it's going to be pink again, this time with a hint of orange. I guess the good thing is I haven't been doing the same shades of pink.



This semester I get to look at clothes for HW assignment. Actually it’s more like studying clothes, which is a lot more fun than studying INL on a ADC. I think the collar is one of those things gets over looked a lot, because it’s not a necessity. However collar brings character to a design, whether it’s elegant or bold, collar speaks volume.

As a Mad Men groupie, I naturally turned to the show for collar ideas. Megan is definitely an unexpected star in this season’s Mad Men. But you could sort of tell from the way she dresses, she isn't going to be a minor character. This is the kind of outfit I would like to wear in the office, but can never find it. Maybe I live in the 60’s?
Not to disappoint, Peggy is a lot like me when I was 25 and I love her collar in this navy blue dress as well. Good for her that she fired that copy writer, but what Joan said was also absolutely true, that in a man’s eye one of them just made herself a bitch and one of them appeared she can't handle problems on her own. Interestingly, other men are just bystanders. In a way, I’m surprised that hasn’t changed in today’s work place.
When I think of collar, I can never forget Holly Golightly’s red coat. I’ve always loved it and had the image in my head forever before internet existed that made searching for pictures so easy. I love this collar, because it’s so elegant and practical at the same time. Just imagine in the cool breezy fall, the tall collar allows you to pair the coat up with different scarves for different looks. It also accentuates a long neck when not wearing the scarf, which I always find so sexy.
you actually see this type of standing up collar alot in the movie
When it comes to design, I think men’s wear is always a wealth of knowledge. Men’s wear is a lot more functional, which is a character I often find missing in women’s wear. For a modern and busy woman like me, practicality in clothing is extremely important. Here’s a jacket that I think would look great on a woman, it’s very biker chic. Pair it up with some pointy high heel tall boots would be very sexy.
Now back to the 2010 and women’s wear, this dress by the first lady is very memorable. This fusia dress reminds of Jackie’s outfit from the 60’s:

Interesting how Michelle Obama pair it with blue shoes, which is not something I would ever have done. But it works. A few similarities including the folded down collar with the button, the 3 quarter sleeves (very sexy as it shows the wrist of a women, one of the curviest part of a women’s body) and the form fitting silhouette.

As I get older, I’ve learned to be sexy without being vulgar. I think it’s a maturity thing. I finally understand what they said in memoir of a geisha, sexy is about seducing and making a man want to see what is underneath than putting everything on the table.

next blog will be on the jeans I've been working on. you might have already known, I'm making skinny jeans. the pattern is fitting very well already. very excited for some butt lifting jeans. 


Thought of the Moment

was just talking to my boss about his traveling schedule next week. it shocked me that next week is going to be Sept. summer just went by me so fast. there's been alot going on, actually. it was a fullfilling summer and I've learned lots lots! to find out exact what, you will have to talk to me. that's right! I'm not putting everything on the internet.

school started this week. it's another step forward. part of me looked forward to it, part of me was afraid that I wouldn't be good. project runway makes fashion design very glamorous and fun. the fact is, it's like engineering. you gotta know your fractional math, have solid illustration skills, un-compromisable sewing skills, endless imaginations and most importantly un-dying visions. the vision is what makes a designer, as suppose to a fashion follower. at least, that's what I think.

my company founders imagined a world where everyone is connected and communicate to everyone regardless of where they are. today, we are not too far from it. i have a vision for the fashion i want to create also, whether it's a good vision, that's TBD. but before that, I need the skills that will translate my vision. the skills that takes time to acquire and perfect. not sure if I have that in me.

well, not to bore you with my philosophical ideas. I do have something exciting to share. I got my studio! yes, finally! I have also started my first assignment this week. determined to be ahead of the schedule this semester.

a blog isn't a blog unless there are some colorful pictures. one of the assignments this semester is finding tear outs, aka picutres of stuff I like. over the summer I've discovered Mario Testino, probably the best fashion photographer in the world. would like to share some of his photos from Vanityfair. I actually have this issue.


French Pattern Drafting

I started reading up my french pattern drafting book, written by Kenneth King, who is an instructor at FIT and also a couture designer for the rich and famous. who also happened to be an instructor at FIT, but previous an instructor at Canada college for over 10 yrs. Before that, he's just like me...a student at Canada College. It's kind of cool to know, this guy started exactly where I am today.

The first a few pages of the book talks about the history of french pattern drafting. In a nut shell, what makes it "french" is that it's custom to everyone's body. this is a system developed by...as you may be able to guess... by someone French. this is the original school that taught it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esmod ESMOD in Paris actually teaches in English. um...it's giving me ideas. lol! when I win the lottery or BRCM stock catches Google.

a bit more history on seamtress. back in the days seamstress were not very respected socially, because they didn't make very much money (due to they didn't have an easy way to fit people then) and often were also prostitutes. tailors on the other hand were men only. making hats was considered high class. are you thinking the same thing I am? That's why I'm such a fan of Coco Chanel. She's really ahead of her time and made something out of herself instead of being content being a seamtress and doing her other questionable night time job. I hope I can be just an innovative as she was.

speaking of making hats. I took a hat making class. It was....tough! all these hand sewing made my hands really rough. not loving it!

latest toys

finally got my camera that was held hostage at Willie's car for weeks. took some pictures of my little studio in the dining room. this is my cutting tool set. I started using rotary cutter; Willie calls it pizza cutter. it sort of works the same way as pizza cutter...I guess. I've also gotten the french curve, just can't draft the arm hole without the curve. all these little toys save me alot of time.

rotary cutter:
all cut up:
in case you are curious, this is the sloper front with seam allowance.

I've picked up a new project along with my other new toy. opted for Canon rather than Nikon, which I had to take a lot of heat with my guy friends. I guess Nikon is the golden brand, but Canon just happened to be the better camera for the specification we are looking for. I figured photography would be a good way to develop good eyes for art and I'm working with ppl talking about photography all the time. Willie and I went to the city yesterday and took some cool pictures. Here they are:

I had my back against the sun in the picture on the right and on the left, sun is on the left. 

at this stage, we are just experimenting with things. I really like fashion photograph that do a good job with lighting contrasing (shadow and light), but I realized that I needed more equipment. I just started playing with the f stops, ISO, shutter speed and etc. so far, I'm finding aperture priority to be more user friendly.  it's kind of cool now that I have some inputs on how the photos should be taken.

today, I'm driving myself crazy with this lab garment. I'm about to swear off the patterns. ok, maybe I will take that back someday, but I'm angry at this point. there's always something wrong with the pattern. I always need this and that adjustment, one adjustment on the burst leads to an adjustment on the sleeve, then you have to change the sleeve back as a result, then you need to change the back because the back sleeve is change. arg!

Now I think I need to take a break. it's getting too difficult. Here's a look at what I have so far. see the pins? I have to change all those seam lines to make things fit. this is taken with the Olympus DSLR, which has problems with white balance. this picture looks blue-ish to me. I would've never noticed it before my new Canon purhcase.

Kenneth King said we need to destroy a few yards of fabrics before we become good at it. I'm still working on the first are.


Late Night Thought

just came back from the tailoring class. i have my fabrics all cut out for my chanel suit, but i'm still far from being done. lately has been a bit stressful; it's do or die time. it's time to see some fabrics sewn together and it's terrifying to me. I kept telling myself, what's the worst that can happen? if anything I'll just buy more fabrics. =)

we spent a whole night talking about setting in the sleeve and it still seems like not enough. I read the book in advance, so everything seems more clear now. same in engineering as it is in clothing constructing, you always have to try a technique to find out if it'll work. you also try it at a smaller scale by making mini size to test ideas out. if it doesn't work out, then you go back and try something else. it's trial and error.

which makes me think... same philosophy is true in life, when you have a goal, you can't let any obstacle get in the way, big or small. this fashion school experience is really helping me see life from a different light.

my teacher wore this jacket from the same pattern I used for my last semester's final project. so I thought I'd post it tonight. my point and shoot camera is still sort of missing, so I took the picture with my macbook. not bad, eh? this is a silk dupioni jacket, which I made from a vogue pattern. Enjoy!


The Arrival of the Dress Form

I've been contemplating on getting a dress form for sometime. I really wanted it, but there's just part of me that said no for the longest time. I feel like I have to slowly earn my way through. I kept telling myself, I'm exploring. I'm scared that I won't go through with the program and waste all the money on the supplies.

so the process of deciding on buying a dress form was really difficult and took forever. finally I've made up my mind and bought it. I bought a good one, too. forget about the ones at Joann's, I got the professional studio made in NYC. then it came the long waiting period. finally IT'S HERE!

it's a huge box. heehee, I haven't been so happy for a long time. of course, once I got it, the first thing was to put my muslin chanel suit on it. for those of you don't know, muslin is a garment you make to test out the pattern and fitting before you cut the fashion fabric. imagine screwing up the $35/yard fabric, right? I've been working on the fitting for so long, now I get to admire it from a distance, pull the fabric straight just like a true designer would.

It's all sinking in now that I'm really embarking on this journey. The letters printed on the dress form is the classic font of the professional ones I've seen on project runway. it's so cool; I just can't stop looking at it. It feels all so real. I'm doing it, I'm making the clothes I've always wanted to and I now can pin it and fit it like I've always wanted to.

ok, one last picture to share, me hugging the dress form, named cicie #2. it's going to have exactly the same size as me as soon as I build it with the padding.

so there you go. I will soon be updating the blog with some of the stuff I've made in the fashion program. I do have alot on hand that I'm working on, including a french style moulage (will explain more), two dresses and two hats. I just did a full bust adjustment on my dress pattern tonight, it's a first time ever, but I should expect to do alot more full bust adjustment in the future.


New Semester

a new year, a new semester and a new start. At last, I get to make fitted garments instead of trying make fitted clothing without the proper knowledge and skills. however I've learned alot from my mistakes. When you break the rules or try to make up your own rules, you really appreciate why those existing rules are set up in the first place.

this semester's assignment is tough. on the lists are the following:
- Chanel inspired jacket
- 1960's style dress
- another lined jacket based on what I made last semester.
- two hats
- french sloper

it's quite challenging. I got started with my Chanel jacket already. so far the tissue fitting went well. I'm not the only one who's making it, surprisingly. finding the fabric is the tough part, because the lack of selection in the SF bay area (as supposed to NYC or LA). but I think I've found exactly what I was looking, for $95/yard or $125/yard for a higher grade. yikes! it's a wool crepe imported for Italy. I have an eye for expensive things for sure.

my family has been in the garment industry for a couple of generations now. when I brought home the sample fabrics to show my mom, she knows exactly why it's expensive. Our conversation reminds me the old days when members of my family either made clothe or went to tailors. I was just a little kid at the time, but I was there for all the conversations of how the fabric feels and watching the adults carefully exam the seams. The images are all coming back to me now. That explains why I'm always able to tell fake silk from real silk.

anyways, I think I'm going to go for the expensive fabrics. makes me a bit nervous. my mom said I should buy the $125/yard one (I thought it's not much different than the $95/yard), since you should never buy the second best. um... one thing is for sure, I'm going for the 30% off store wide on president's day. yippie!