Fashion Barometer Friday: Kimono? KimoYES!


A gorgeous vintage kimono on Etsy

Cardigans thought life was cool, the world of chilly breezes and overcast summers was their oyster. But, even for cardigans, pride comes before a fall. Cardigans might have laughed at kimonos in the past, thinking the Western world would forever keep them hidden behind bedroom doors. Now cardigans know better. Kimonos are taking over the world one crisp evening at a time, and unlike cardigans, they are really easy to make.

Kimonos actually have several advantages over cardigans, one of them being that they can transport us back to a time before Helena Bonham Carter professed her affection for the Camerons.


In The Wings of the Dove, the antiheroine Kate Croy (played by HBC) is bankrolled by her Aunt Maude (Charlotte Rampling), who apparently decides that what Kate needs to catch a rich husband is some fancy kimonos. Works for me.


Kate makes friends with the sweet-but-dull heiress, Milly (Alison Elliott), who revels in Kate’s bitchy quips without realising that her new BFF’s venomous little mind will soon be used against her, too.


They run off to Venice together, making sure to pack even more glam kimonos and Kate’s impoverished lover, Merton (Linus Roache), who Kate has set as a trap for Milly’s fortune. The holiday coverup power of kimonos is made quite evident in this shot of the doomed threesome lounging in a gondola.

The Oscar-nominated costumes for The Wings of the Dove, made by Patricia Lester (with Sandy Powell as costume designer), are said to have been inspired by the designs of Mariano Fortuny. He worked in Venice at the beginning of the 20th century, when the West had a fancy for all things Oriental. Kimonos seem like a peculiarly Jamesian thing to wear, as the author is forever exoticizing everyone who is not a WASP in his novels. A contemporary reviewer is even quoted as saying “Isabel Archer is only Mr. James in kimono.”


Originating in Japan, kimonos have a wealth of history and significance way beyond the Western fashion world’s adoption of them, which you can read a bit about on the V&A’s website.

wrap top illustration

Make your own: Attract your own rich husband, or penniless journo, with this tutorial at Elle Apparel, of which Julia Bobbin has made a gorgeous version. DIY couture has a new pattern coming soon (free download!) which is also very like a kimono.


Buy your own: You can hardly avoid them these days, they’ve even been given their own tab on most online shopping sites. Victory over the stuffy cardigan is theirs! Laura at Roots & Feathers is rarely seen without one and looks amazing in them, even though her style is so different to mine. That’s the thing about kimonos: you can be a scheming socialite in 19th century Venice, or a nature-loving Texan. They are just so versatile.

Blog Birthday and Drafting a Drape

Three years ago yesterday I wrote my first blog post on Dressmaker’s Curve, can you believe it? I always remember the date because of the My Ruin song, June 10th. If you weren’t a teenage goth you should probably look away now…


“Digging the hell out of you, digging the hell in you”, ahhhhh memories.

ANYWAY, because it is my blog birthday week, I am going to share a tutorial on how to draft a drape! I mentioned in this post about wanting to change the way I design clothes, to resist the temptation to design only what I know I can easily draft a pattern for. My final collection definitely lived up to that challenge!


Remember this dress? It took me a fair while to figure out how to draft the drapey bit, or swag if you will. It really isn’t that hard but I couldn’t find many helpful resources online when I was doing it, so here goes.


This could be quite a fun pattern hack for any relatively unfussy dress, blouse, or skirt pattern. The same principle could be applied to adding a drape within the fabric of your dress too, rather than as a separate piece.

draped skirts

When I began to think about how to draft the dress, I found these diagrams, which have been doing the rounds on Pinterest. The most useful in this instance is the third diagram down, because the drapes have roughly the same shape as that on my dress. It’s not amazingly detailed though, so a made a little step-by-step of how I extrapolated from the diagram…


1. Sketch out where your drape will fall on the technical drawing. I designed my dress so that the drape begins and ends in the yoke seam, but if you’re hacking a pattern you may have to work out where you are going to conceal the ends of the drape.


2. Draw the shape onto the relevant pattern pieces (probably best to trace them first, and get rid of any seam allowances), here the dress front is pictured. My drape is 20cm wide at the yoke front and yoke back, and about 30cm at the side seam.



3. Now onto the back, making sure the drape coincides at the side seam. Cut out your drape pieces and label them.

drape_Página_44. Decide how many pleats you want your drape to have, and divide your pattern pieces up. I decided on 5 equal pleats, which translated to 5cm each at Z and 6cm at Y, then I just drew the divisions on freehand.


5. Now you can cut out the drape sections but do remember to label them first, otherwise you’re going to be very confused in a minute.


6. Get another piece of pattern paper and start laying the sections out on top. I decided I wanted the pleats to be as deep as the sections themselves, so that meant adding 10cm between the sections at the yoke W and 12cm at the side seam X.


7. Now you need to do the same for the other side, with the sections laid out as shown, so that they meet at the side seam. Draw around the outline made by the sections, and you’re nearly finished!


8. The final step is to mark the pleats onto your pattern paper and to add seam allowance. I added 1cm at the yoke seams (to be enclosed in the yokes) and 2.5cm at V and U. The 2.5cm allowance is to be finished with a serger/overlocker or a rolled hem (I used this as it was most appropriate for the chiffon) and then folded under when you sew the drape to the dress, so that none of the edges can be seen.


After I cut and hemmed the drape, I pinned it to an old dress to see whether it had worked. And I’m happy to say that after all that drafting fun, it came out first time.

So, I hope that’s helpful to the next person who desperately searches the internet for information on drafting a drape. Because it’s my blog birthday week and I’m feeling extra generous, here’s a photo of me in my goth getup:



A Black Shift

Shift dress

I’ve been making some clothes for myself at last! A black broderie anglaise shift dress, similar to Colette’s Laurel, but not the same – I drafted it myself and didn’t add fisheye darts to the back, because I don’t mind it not being fitted. It is very, very short, after all.

shift close up

Here you can see the texture of the fabric a bit better. It is quite fitting that I made a kind-of Colette pattern from this fabric, because I actually bought it when Sarai came to Buenos Aires and we went to the fabric district, Once, together. She bought a cream version of the same fabric and made a lovely Hazel out of it. That was over two years ago!

The fabric was an absolute bugger to cut because the border had been embroidered off-grain. I decided to cut with the embroidery rather than with the grain, but it was a challenge to work out.

Shift back

I put a zip in the back but it was totally unneccessary as it fits over my head, and I might take it out because, as you can see in this picture, it give me a weird protuberance just over the bum. Classy. I lowered the neckline after finishing the dress because too-high necklines make me feel like I’m being strangled. I maybe should have left the back neckline alone, though.

Shift 4

Yes you have seen this scarf before! There was a picture of me knitting it in my last post. I love knitting the continental way. This scarf fluffs all over the place, though.

Simon took these pictures for me on a walk through Palermo. How gorgeous is Buenos Aires in autumn? I adore it more every day.

Change of Season

Autumn from the bike lane, Chacarita

Autumn from the bike lane, Chacarita

Happy May! It is strange seeing the Northern hemisphere getting so excited about summer, while in Buenos Aires, I am starting to knit again and enjoying the beautiful autumn leaves. Autumn is my favourite time of year, perhaps in part thanks to my previously mentioned burning hatred of summer fashion. Wherever you are, a new season is always a good time to reflect – and that means making a new list.

Seasonal lists

I am an avid list-maker, though I rarely manage to tick off everything. In fact, the things that you don’t tick off can be even more interesting than those that you do. Yoga is at the top of the list again this season and there are a few sewing aims on there too, of course. The main one is to sew, or give away, all of my stash and absolutely NOT buy any more fabric. The impending continent move means that I am feeling those seasonal emotions of reflection, hope, and confusion especially strongly. I can’t say I don’t have some conflicting emotions about leaving this wonderful city that I love, and the friends I have made in the past five and a half years. Gulp.

May in the sewing community means one thing – Me Made May. I won’t be taking part this year (mainly because I totally forgot about it until yesterday!), though I will be cheering from the sidelines. In fact, most of my clothes are now me-made. I’ve just finished sewing the one last summer dress that was left in the to-sew pile, so it’s time for me to crack on with some winter sewing.


Continental knitting

And some winter knitting! My lovely friend Helina taught me the continental method of knitting, and it’s been a revelation! The other way felt quite uncomfortable to me. Oooops, and in that photo you can see that I’m STILL wearing that grey cardigan that I swore I’d get rid of last MMM. Sometimes change just means learning to love yourself and your penchant for hideous grey cardigans.

Exploring Inspiration

As I mentioned in my last post, the first exercise we were given at Eamoda to define our style as designers was to explore sources of inspiration and present them in a way which represents that style. We were encouraged to consider all of our senses and more: music, art, architecture, icons, food, landscape, memory, film.


The cover of my Libro de Autor (inspiration journal)

You may know that I have a degree in English Literature. Words are an important source of inspiration and pleasure to me, so I chose to present my project in a second-hand book. I found the perfect book in a shop on Avenida Corrientes: Las Tremendas Decisiones (tremendous decisions), by Enrique Oded Sverdlik. I liked the cover and title for my journal, so filled the book with text, drawings and images. Sorry Enrique!

Title page

Title page, photo by Isabel

I used found images, quotes, and borrowed some photos from my talented siblings, Tom and Issy. It’s been so long since I’ve drawn anything other than design sketches, it was a real pleasure to have an excuse to doodle on these pages.

Molly Whuppie, illustrated by Errol Le Cain

Molly Whuppie, illustrated by Errol Le Cain

Pinterest was a great help to me when choosing images to use, but there is no reason why inspirational images have to stay online. For me, deciding what to print and how the images fit together gave my choices a gravity that led to more careful consideration of what I find inspirational and why.

The Isis, Oxford

The Isis, Oxford (photos by me and Tom)

I really recommend taking the time to print or draw an inspiration journal. It is a pleasurable process, and I found the result surprising in some ways. My book has a nostalgic, slightly sinister feeling throughout, which I didn’t realise was so important to my design aesthetic. I still love Pinterest, but I can now see it as a jumping-off point for looking more deeply into where my inspiration comes from.

René Gruau illustrations

René Gruau illustrations

Repairs to my sewing machine have been delayed – for the time being I’ve been doing some sashiko embroidery, which should be finished soon! Also my parents are arriving for a visit tomorrow, so I doubt I’ll get much sewing done over the next couple of weeks. There’s some space to fill in my wardrobe after a successful chuck-out at the weekend!

* If you’re interested in looking at some more inspiration journals, I first saw an old book used as a journal on Esther from the sticks. I recommend you look at her blog anyway, because she makes some incredible clothes.

** I didn’t like to include all of the pages of my journal here because I can’t credit all of the images and I’m unsure about the copyright implications of sharing collages online.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 243 other followers