06 Apr The St. John Suit by Julie Starr (guest post)
A big welcome to my friend and co-author, Julie Starr, a lovely woman who models the example of excellence through her exemplary sewing, in addition to being a sewist who illustrates my motto with verve! Enjoy 😉
from Julie ~
Have you ever clipped an inspiration image that practically haunted you until you challenged yourself to give it a go? Taking cues from high end ready to wear designers is the fuel that feeds my sewing passion and this $2000 St. John suit is an especially gratifying example.
I found myself lingering over the photo each time I visited my Pinterest sewing inspiration board. It was pure happenstance that the lookalike Linton tweed fabric was right there in my stash, having been vetoed in favor of a loftier boucle fabric while at Susan Khalje’s couture workshop two years ago.
More often than not, I am attracted to styles constructed with simple, classic lines, and this jacket is an ideal case in point. The designer version is exquisite, to be sure, but nothing an intermediate sewist with patience and determination cannot duplicate.
To turn my inspiration image into a reality, I focused on the details and features I liked before determining which should be adapted to make the version most flattering for my shape and best suited to my lifestyle.
For instance, the sleeves on the St. John inspiration jacket were too short and snug for my taste and the mobility required for my usual work tasks, so they were lengthened and widened. The pencil thin inspiration skirt looks great, but I doubt I’d accomplish my typical daily 15,000 Fitbit-confirmed steps and 30 flights of stairs while wearing it. Therefore the shape was adjusted to something more manageable.
On the plus side, the collar and peplum shapes really appealed to me. Training your eye to focus on the line drawings when selecting patterns will offer much more helpful information and fewer distractions from the finished garment photographs.
What’s the proverbial saying about making a silk purse from a sow’s ear? One source translates this as “it is not possible to produce something refined, admirable or valuable from something which is unrefined, unpleasant or of little or no value.”
This is a great bit of advice to keep in mind when sourcing fabrics for your investment wardrobe; one which took me a long time to come to terms with. You will still save a fortune compared to the ready to wear version, even when splurging on the most high end fabrics. Total materials cost for my suit, including fashion fabric, silk twill lining, silk organza underlining and fancy buttons was $182; a 91% savings over the St. John ensemble.
At close to $200 it’s still a good chunk of money but consider the value – a coordinated suit, a jacket that is perfect with jeans and a skirt that can be worn on its own with a wide variety of tops.
When I returned to sewing I was lured by lots of “make it tonight, wear it tomorrow” types of projects. As much as I still love sewing a quick knit top or cardigan, I will happily spend as long as it takes to be rewarded with a well constructed garment in a luscious fabric.
Muslins are non negotiable when you’ve splurged on fine fabric, as is meticulous pressing after each seam!
While I’m not a 100% purist (invisible zippers and sergers are simply not used in couture, yet I cannot resist them), incorporating even a few of these time honored techniques will make a great deal of difference in the resulting level of quality. It only takes a few extra minutes to add a layer of silk organza underlining to skirts but you won’t believe the difference in the wear and performance of fabrics that tend to stretch, sag or wrinkle.
Likewise, the miracle of Petersham ribbon for a bulk-free waistband facing was a revelation to me!
when you sew with the best quality materials your budget allows and focus on the details one step at a time, you will undoubtably amaze yourself!
Sew Your Own Clothes, Save Thousands of Dollars and Look Like a Million Bucks!