in an effort to make this "blog" more than just "look what I made!" (boring for you/readers, maybe?), I thought I'd discuss a bit about my approach to one of fashion's most vexing choices: print fabrics.
See, I love a crazy print: something with unexpected colors or novelty appeal; but I know that many folks approach these with some trepidation. And there are good, solid reasons for this fear, ranging from looking like you're wearing a costume (in a bad way), to wanting versatility and lots of (easy) wear out of your wardrobe.
Will a wild print be memorable? Yes. So you really can't get away with wearing, say, this dress (on the right) to work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday without your co-workers noticing.
Will a crazy print be overwhelming? Frankly, there's every chance for this to be the case. But this is where good design comes into play: choosing what will work best with the scale, orientation, and vibe of the print fabric (plus, match with its fiber content, weave, & weight).
Some prints love being mashed-up, recombined, and shifted around a million ways; this can actually make them less obtrusive. Other prints look best with minimal fuss (less seaming, design-lines, and trims) that break up their pattern.
The silk dress on the right, for example, makes the most of a very busy, detailed print with a combination of gentle gathering (shoulders, under-bust, below waist panel) to break up the print's pattern, but without changing its orientation or overall flow. The waist-panel (& its seams) helps to keep the look from becoming a "block" of print, which can be visually overwhelming. Plus, this shape is designed to fit & flatter the specific customer's proportions & lifestyle.
With a larger-scale print, especially one that has a regular "repeat" and clear, one-way orientation (meaning, there's a top & bottom or the printed images are all in one direction & can't be flipped), it's often preferable to work it into a design that has cleaner lines (less seams & no gathering or pleats). This creates a look that showcases the print fabric, like the apples & pears retro. Mod print shown on the right in a simple, A-line design with sleeveless (lined) bodice top, raised waistline, and full-cut skirt with hidden, side-seam pockets.
Because each print (like each body) is unique, I like to approach custom-orders (as well as most of my ready-made creations) with either:
Thinking of trying to add prints to your wardrobe, but you're worried about versatility? I'd recommend starting with a print that's smaller in scale, regular in spacing/pattern, and has only a few colors, something like the vintage rayon over there ------------>
Or, maybe, you're on the other end of the spectrum & you love a wild, bold print? Great (me too)! The trick here is to develop a design plan that makes the most of your beloved print, without sacrificing a flattering fit for the garment & all good taste. (I'm actually quite fond of clothes that others might consider tacky, brash, or too-much, but I also know that with a crazier print, the finished look benefits from a more restrained or "classy" design.) A demure collar or longer/fuller skirt can keep you *just* short of the costume-line (& I basically tightrope walk that line every day when I get dressed). So, found a vintage fabric with a print of giant kittens playing with yarn balls? Heck yes, let's make a killer dress out of it!
Or, you know that I love to work with vintage bed sheets, right? These can be a bit trickier (depending on their condition, orientation, scale, etc.), but with a little time, thoughtfulness, and mad-dressmaker-skills, there's always the possibility of making, say, a 1960's-inspired cocktail dress and matching bolero jacket out of, say, 2 vintage Star Wars sheets ("Star Wars" for the dress & jacket fronts, "Empire Strikes Back" for the backs) . . . Design shown below is my V-V Dress, fully lined, with a bolero design based off a 1960's pattern image (futuristic-collar detailing, 3/4 length sleeves, cropped to dress-waist-height, & fully lined with an interior pocket). Warning: this outfit represents 18 hours of design, cutting, sewing, & fitting = not fast but (quality) built for the ages.