inspiration: sketching with Mike & Shan

Lately I have been feeling a bit hindered by my method of sketching out my clothing ideas. I didn’t feel confident enough to start with a blank sheet of paper, so I have been using a croquis I found somewhere – and consequently my sketches are flat, symmetrical and diagrammatic. I always approach it the same way too, which means all my designs look very similar. Bo-ring! I’ve decided to work on it by sketching a bit everyday and reaching out to some talented friends for pointers. It’s really helping!

My friend Mike is quite talented at drawing, here’s proof. He sat down with me to give me some pointers and lend me a small female form to use as a model. It’s so helpful just to have a body to look at while drawing. Mike’s advice is really helping me to “see” in a new way and “record” my vision in my sketches.

Another friend, Shan, lent me some books from her fashion school days. Having some conversations with Shan on the subject, and seeing her work from school, is teaching me the difference between life drawing, fashion illustration and garment diagrams. I realize now that sometimes I will need to draw my clothes as a 2-d “flat” or diagram. But for generating ideas, it’s much more interesting and free to sketch gesturally.

look what i found: vintage button cards

I got these old button cards at an antique sale. They’re so cute, I’ll probably never take the buttons off them! The “pearl shirt buttons” card is my favorite.

inspiration: polaroid

Maybe it’s trendy at the moment, but I don’t think the allure of Polaroid ever really goes away. With instant film, watching the image appear out of nothing is like witnessing a tiny magic trick. Even though I’ve read up on the science of Polaroid film, it will always be magic to me. I’ve got 5 or 6 different types of Polaroid cameras in my collection, but here are my three favorites:

1. SLR 680

This is basically the same body design as the iconic and super stylish SX-70 (folding single lens reflex) but is equipped with an innovative auto-focusing system that uses sonar – that’s right, sonar!

2. Automatic 100

This camera is from the early 1960s and uses the peel-apart style “pack film”. Holding this up to your eye in public is like putting a brass diving helmet on your head – people look at you like you’re a time traveler.

3. Big Shot

I’d been wanting to get one of these monsters for a while, and this weekend Kim happened to find one at a rummage sale. It works perfectly and was only $6! The Big Shot was Polaroid’s portrait camera – it is designed purely for portraits, with a fixed focal distance of only a few feet. It’s best known as being favored by Andy Warhol, he would use his Big Shot pictures as the basis for his iconic painted portraits.

If you’re interested, here are some shots I’ve taken with these on my Flickr page.

Queen of Hearts – update

Sometimes the hardest thing to do (and the right thing to do) is change course. After scrambling to put a skirt together for the Queen of Hearts project, I realized that I was making something I didn’t really like just to get it done. I really want to make sure that this project is something I can be happy with when it’s complete, so I’ve decided to give myself more time to finish it the right way.

I finished the bodice – it has princess seams, which I know is not period accurate as far as Elizabethan costume goes, but I am not being that stuffy about these things. The inside is all lined, and I made a corset type closure in the back. It doesn’t close properly on my dressform, but it fits me well. I added boning to the bodice where I could to make it more structural and clean.

Now I’m working on the ruff – which I realize now was the whole reason I wanted to do this project! The ruffles are intoxicatingly swirly. It’s a bit floppy now, but today I am going to dip the whole thing in stiffener and mold it into shape as it dries.

It will be done when it’s done, and it will be what I consider “right”. And that’s what matters for a project like this.

mendocino trip 2009

It’s a tradition now: every spring, a bunch of friends and I trek up to Mendocino and stay in this old Victorian house for a few days. Mendocino has a beautiful but moody landscape, so moody in fact that it convincingly passed for New England in “Murder, She Wrote”. Mendocino is the real Cabot Cove!

I look forward to this trip every year, to sit in front of the fireplace with 12 or 13 of my favorite people makes it feel like Christmas. Last year I took a bunch of polaroids while we were up there, and I just pulled them out again to get excited for this year’s trip. Enjoy!

(side note: going forward I’ll be updating this blog Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays instead of everyday. Cheers!)





on a plain

penguin books

I love Penguin Books. When brilliant designer Jan Tschichold redesigned their covers in 1949 he (literally) wrote the rule book on Penguin book covers. I’d love to collect some early Penguin books, as I’m sure we’ve already got some pretty old ones back home.

image from Penguin Books article on

Lately Penguin has been teaming up with amazing graphic artists to produce deluxe editions of classic novels. They recently released a “couture inspired” collection, three books with covers by super talented and acclaimed fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo. The collection includes Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice and The Scarlet Letter. Try to read some feel-good happy ending type stories inbetween.

Covers for Wuthering Heights, The Scarlett Letter & Pride and Prejudice - illustrations by Ruben Toledo

inspiration: “we keep them fit to fly”

The Library of Congress has uploaded a substantial set of color images from the 1930s and 40s. Particularly striking to me are these wonderful images of women working at the Douglas Aircraft plant in California in 1942. Taken by Alfred T. Palmer, these images are incredible snapshots of their era. The clothing, the machinery, the colors, the lighting – I wish it were a movie, I’d stop everything I was doing to watch it.

See the whole set of color images from the 1930s-40s on Flickr here.

and now, i need to breathe

With all that I’ve had going on lately, designing and launching this blog, working on (and ultimately pausing on) my victorian project, making serious progress on my Queen of Hearts (QoH) project and starting my first real “commissioned” project, I am feeling a little out of gas. This weekend, I plan to really recharge my batteries… while continuing to work on my QoH dress… because I’ve only got a week left.

in progress: Queen of Hearts – shoes!

My personal deadline for the Queen of Hearts dress I’m working on is March 5th, the release date for Tim Burton’s new Alice in Wonderland movie. It’s less than two weeks away, which means it’s time to consider details like shoes! Using vintage shoes as inspiration, I have picked these black beauties from my shoe collection – I’m planning on white stockings (Alice style), so these should look more period inspired in context.

I have been keeping these magazine pages in my inspiration box for ages. I don’t even remember what magazine they came from, but the shoes are from the impressively large and immaculately maintained collection of Lillian Williams.

look what i found: vintage letter stamps

Picked these up at the antique fair a while back. I think a few pieces are missing from the set, but it’s great to have so many in their original box. A great find, I’d say!

The set has more than just letters. I think there were originally more of these, but my set only has 3 left.

A peek inside the box - upper case, lower case, numbers, and a few extras.

And here's what the stamps look like, stamped!