Today, for DIY Thursday, we are featuring a Guy Laroche pattern from Vogue Designer Patterns constructed in the Alabama Chanin style. I never had the chance to meet Guy Laroche, nor have I met the house’s current artistic director, Marcel Marongiu, but I admire their focus on impeccable tailoring. Laroche’s collections once featured billowing empire line dresses; the pattern that we chose to adapt combines the flowing nature of those garments with their famous tailoring skills.
Because this garment was dressier than some of our other Vogue Pattern adaptations, we only made a basic version. We think it is spectacular without embellishment. However, it would be gorgeous with some beading around the neckline or the hem. Either way, this dress is perfect for any upcoming holiday parties.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, to view “Creation Story: Gee’s Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial.” I spent forever moving from one quilt to the next – leaning as closely in as I could without being reprimanded. No matter how many times you see those beautiful pieces, they never fail to amaze and inspire. The quilts, while spectacular, were meant for everyday use and were made with whatever materials were available. The personal stories associated with each quilt drove that point home. Each was described by the maker in simple terms and plain language, as if what they produced was no big deal, as though anyone could do it. I was particularly taken by the quilts of Missouri Pettway, both intricate and simple in their constructions. One quilt, made from her husband’s work clothes, demonstrated the love that went into each and every one of these works of art. I felt a lump rise in my throat as I read the description, as told by the quilter’s daughter, Arlonzia:
“It was when Daddy died. I was about seventeen, eighteen. He stayed sick about eight months and passed on. Mama say, ‘I going to take his work clothes, shape them into a quilt to remember him, and cover up under it for love.’ She take his old pants legs and shirttails, take all the clothes he had, just enough to make that quilt, and I helped her tore them up. Bottom of the pants is narrow, top is wide, and she had me to cutting the top part out and shape them up in even strips.” Continue reading
In 2009 and 2010, an exhibition was held at Pratt Institute to help explain the relationship between fashion and sustainability.
For this exhibit (called Ethics + Aesthetics = Sustainable Fashion), curators Francesca Granata and Sarah Scaturro (now Conservator at The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) displayed garments from our Alabama Chanin Songbirds collection, and also from artists and designers like Susan Cianciolo, Andrea Zittel, Suno, and Bodkin.
Andrea Zittel’s smockshop pattern was included in the “Rethink” portion of the exhibition and provided as a printed pattern at the back of the catalog. From page 36 of the catalog:
A simple double wrap-around garment, the smock as designed by the artist Andrea Zittel, is a versatile and utilitarian garment. For the Smockshop project, it is reworked by a number of artists who reinterpret the original pattern based on their individual skill sets and tastes. In line with Zittel’s motto, “Liberation through Limitations,” the smocks are intended to be worn exclusively for six months, but in an understanding of the idealistic nature of such a practice, the artist is at least hoping “to inspire a more frugal approach to design.” The examples in the exhibition are by the artist Tiprin Follett, who wore her smocks continuously and documented her performance in an interview with Zittel as well as through snapshots.
This summer Kristine Vejar, founder of A Verb for Keeping Warm (one of the first stores to sell our fabrics and supplies in a retail setting), began a project that encourages each of us to make 25% of our wardrobe. Simply stated, this means 1 out of every 4 garments in your closet should be handmade- sewn, knitted, crocheted, or constructed in your desired method. I would also include any accessory- hats, necklaces, socks, shoes, and the like.
The project, called the Seam Allowance Project, helps connect those who have the desire to make with a community of sewers, knitters, and other craftspeople within the DIY movement.
A few reasons to pledge to make 25% of your wardrobe:
It’s an ethical choice. You KNOW how your clothes are being made.
It’s an economical choice. You are saving money by making your clothes yourself.
It’s a sustainable choice. You are consuming less because you are buying less.
It’s a creative choice and a beautiful form of self-expression.
Continuing our conversation around design, craft and fashion, this week we present a Tracy Reese pattern from Vogue Designer Patterns for DIY Thursday. In all my years as a designer, I have not had the chance to meet Tracy, although I have been familiar with her work since the launch of her collection in the mid-1990s. At that time, I was working as a stylist in Europe and spent much of my time in boutiques, reading fashion magazines, and working with clients.
In an effort to understand Tracy Reese’s philosophy, we reached out to her press office for information and received a note stating that they could “not provide any information at this time.” However, this is what I found on the CFDA website:
“Detroit native Tracy Reese is a graduate of Parsons School of Design. Reese apprenticed under designer Martin Sitbon and worked as design director for Women’s Portfolios at Perry Ellis before launching her eponymous collection in 1996. The collection blends the ultra-feminine and nostalgic with modern polish. plenty by Tracy Reese, was introduced in 1998, after a trip to India provided endless inspiration. A joyful color palette, art-inspired prints and playful details are seen on essentials with a bohemian spirit. With flagships in Manhattan and Tokyo, the Tracy Reese and plenty brands have expanded to include footwear, handbags and home goods.”
Martine Stibon remains one of my all-time favorite designers and I used those pieces often during my days as a stylist. I do love the dress that emerged using our organic cotton jersey fabrics with Tracy Reece’s pattern.
In January, we began a conversation about the intersection of Fashion, Craft, and DIY. That dialogue started with our friends at Vena Cava and progressed to our Makeshift events, and continues with adapting patterns from designers like Anna Sui and Donna Karan (one of my personal favorites that I wear often). This week we extend the conversation with a collaboration and pattern from textile designer Anna Maria Horner.
Below are instructions for Alabama Chanin’s basic version of Anna Maria’s dress pattern in Light Golden and Goldenrod, the newest colors in our hand-dyed, cotton jersey fabric collection. These fabric colors, like our Indigo and Coral, are hand-dyed in Nashville, Tennessee, using the osage orange wood and myrobalan fruit in varying amounts to create variation in shades.
We recently shared companies that are making quality products in the United States. To continue this ‘Made in America’ post from last week, we feature another round of companies who practice the same excellence and pride.
Some of these products have been staples in my daily wear for ages; they’ve held up to the test of time. I look forward to incorporating newer products into my lifestyle for years to come. Please share with us your experience with these makers, as well as any other companies, artisans, or manufacturers from the United States that have a presence in your wardrobe, and life.
For the past few weeks, my mind has been on the subject of ‘craft’ even more than usual as I continue to work on MAKESHIFT: SHIFTING THOUGHTS ON DESIGN, FASHION, COMMUNITY, CRAFT & DIY- a series of events, discussions, and workshops held during ICFF New York Design Week.
How appropriate it is to have received this beautifully hand-printed postcard from our friends at Rural Studio.
For more information visit www.ruralstudio.org.
Last month, we introduced Jessamyn, a new contributor to this blog. Sharing the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fires cast a sad light on the history of labor laws in the U.S; however, she showed us how to find better joys in fashion, ecology, and ethics. She has since written about the meaning of D.I.Y.
This week, in a conversation between Jessamyn and Rosanne Cash—another dear friend and colleague—Rosanne shares sentimental stories on the garments that occupy her life and closet.
Please welcome back Jessamyn – and Rosanne - part of the growing heart and soul of Alabama Chanin.
Rosanne and Jessamyn will also be participating in MAKESHIFT: SHIFTING THOUGHTS ON DESIGN, FASHION, COMMUNITY, CRAFT & DIY. Visit here to learn more about MAKESHIFT and its participants.
Thanks to everyone who came out for our Visiting Artist Series with Faythe Levine. It proved to be a fantastic evening of crafting, conversation, and Old-Fashioneds.
In addition to the interactive crafting that ensued, Faythe held a seminar where she lectured on ‘Craftivism’, her work and travels (examples include urban camping in Detroit and a boathouse community on the Mississippi River), and how to build your business. The audience consisted of spinners, musicians, teachers, artists, gardeners, knitters, quilters, and makers of all kinds. The open conversation allowed everyone in the group to share their successes, ideas, struggles, and journeys both inside and outside of the creative “industry.”