Sunday, February 11, 2018

Setting Intention for the 2018 RTW Fast

2017 was a great sewing year, but I was unmotivated to blog my makes. Truth:  I like the writing aspect of blogging, but the photography part frustrates and intimidates me! 

This year I am participating in another RTW Fast with Sarah from Goodbye Valentino.  My first RTW Fast was in 2015 as an "ambitious beginner." The 2015 Fast pushed me to increase my sewing skills, even though I no longer wear most of these items.  My reasons have evolved since 2015, so i thought I would dust off this space and declare my 2018 fasting intentions:

1) Wardrobe & Skill Building

 The TunicBible tunic (January 2018)

Self drafted African Waxprint skirt (January 2018)

I lead a casual lifestyle and my clothing NEEDS reflect that.  My WANTS are a different story.. I love sewing for special life events, particularly weddings and travel!  For 2018 events, I am anticipating 3 weddings (2 spring/1 fall) and 1 big vacation coming up later this month to New Zealand.  My 2018 sewing queue is still largely the same as it was during the 2015 Fast:

1. Develop a pant sloper and make some well-fitting jeans 
2. Tailored winter coat
3. Handbag/clutch making

2) Refinement of Personal Style

This is a tough one and I'm still figuring it out. I'm trying to check myself more to see if a particular style actually suits ME. Trends do inform our individual style evolution, but the march of time does too.  And the more I grow my own confidence, the more comfortable I am branching out stylistically!

I posted the above photo to IG last year and it encapsulates a lot of how I feel about confidence, personal style and being comfortable dressing a little different.  I wrote:

Beautiful fall weather in Central Park today wearing my “it’s not fashionable, it’s timeless” #jupeprovencaleand a top that I dyed black with #ritdye. My mom bought me this #lesindiennesdenimesskirt in #arles when I was 13 years old (!) on a family trip. The fabric is typical of the region and is still one of my favorite items of clothing! “It’s not fashionable, it’s timeless” was my mom’s sales pitch to me in the store—as a teenager I was hesitant to get the skirt because i was concerned that my middle school classmates would raise their eyebrows at my fashion choices when I returned home!

GOAL: No particular goal, just want to see how my personal style evolves.

3) Personal Finance

In 2017 I catalogued all of my RTW clothing/shoe/accessory purchases with the goal of spending <4% of my personal net paycheck on these expenses. It was an empowering exercise because it affirmed that my actual spending is on par with the nominal emotional value I (do my best to) assign to designer clothing/shoes/accessories.  Now it's time to take it a step forward and use these micro-gains to invest in my macro-level financial goals!  

GOAL:   Like a lot of married women, my husband manages our investments and I'm pretty clueless about his active strategy. The RTW Fast along with Sallie Krawcheck's ElleVest are together serving as the catalyst for me to learn about investing on my own. This week I set up a non-marital account for the $ I will save from fasting. I am auto- investing an additional 4% net paycheck per month and plan to donate an additional 1% to charity.  Still thinking on where I want to donate.  Hopefully my fasting $ will be able to fund a sewing room renovation in a hypothetical future home or some great trips or whatever it is that my future self would like!

4) Sustainability
Mother Daughter glacier climb in Iceland!

I am trying to be more mindful of sustainability in several areas of my life.   While vacationing with my Mom and sister last summer in Iceland and the Faroes, I read "The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy" by Economics Professor Pietra Rivoli.  The book was primarily about free trade/globalization through the lens of how a t-shirt is made, but it did get me thinking about sustainability and what I can do to make it a more active part of my life.  My vacation surroundings also impacted my read.  We spent a day climbing the Snaefellsnes glacier with a guide who was a passionate environmental advocate. He looked each of us square in the eye and asked us what we were actively doing to protect our environment.  His question and my fumbling response have haunted me a bit. 

1. Buy less, use more: For every one unit of fabric that I purchase, I must make 2 unit from my stash.
2. Recycle my fabric scraps via the H&M recycling program.
3. Finish 3 UFOs (Kelly Anorak, shower curtain, Hemlock tee, Bombshell dress)

My sewjo has been lacking the last few weeks, but nothing motivates me quite like a deadline...or two.  I leave for New Zealand in 2 weeks on a much-anticipated vacation I have been planning for 2 years + I have a dressy-ish lunch to attend a few days prior.  1 stretch suede dress and another vacation tunic + Hemlock tee and white Eleonore jeans are all in my rather ambitious queue! Let's see how I do! 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wear-it-to-Death Lodo Dress


Introducing the 2017 lead contender for the wear it to death summer dress: True Bias Lodo.

This was a quick make with a striped ponte from Metro Textiles and a woven cotton for the facings purchased at the Seam Shoppe in Key West, Florida in March. 

Seam Shoppe in Key West

The  pattern, while quite simple, is well drafted.


There are no bust darts and only very subtle contouring along the side seams to achieve the cocoon shape.  Given the amount of drafting errors in most indie patterns, I have become increasingly wary of purchasing outside of the Big 4.  However,  Kelly from True Bias has professional drafting skills from FIT and I had a good experience with the True Bias Southport Dress.

The only deviation I made from the Lodo instructions was to edgestitch the facings before flipping.


I was a bit on the fence about making the Lodo, as it is a style that is easily available in RTW and I generally try to sew clothes that I wouldn't otherwise purchase.

Similar Cocoon style dress spotted at Eileen Fisher

Speaking of RTW, I have been keeping a spreadsheet of all my clothing and shoe purchases in 2017.  My goal is to keep annual clothes/shoe/accessory costs well below 4% of my personal paycheck after tax.  So far I am on track for the year.  However, the final stats will somewhat lack in integrity since much of the new clothes I wear are me-made and I am not factoring fabric/notion costs into that 4%. Nor am I factoring in the fabric that I purchase this year that will languish in the stash. Sometimes I wonder how my spending on clothes would be different if I did not sew...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lace Midi Skirt

Have you ever traveled to an event, packed one outfit, and then felt totally demoralized because you don't look anything like what you envisioned?  


After the wedding

And of course the wardrobe blahs are all the more poignant when you have spent every extra moment of the last five days finishing the damn thing, including three hours of hand stitching on the plane!  

When my college friend Julia asked me to be a bridesmaid in her Seattle wedding, I was relieved that the only restriction was that I wear purple. I picked up a beautiful synthetic lace from Chic Fabrics several months ago and planned to make a midi skirt with a black silk camisole (RTW).

I have been working on self-drafted skirts the past few months (blog post to come soon), so decided to draft my own midi skirt. A Challenging Sew's five paneled midi-skirts served as primary inspiration for this project. I like mid-skirts and it's a flattering fit for my pear shape.

With only two yards of lace on hand, I drafted a three panel skirt.


Although the muslin fit properly, I knew that the base layer of black silk charmeuse and organza was prone to stretching because of the bias panels.  To mitigate distortion, I cut the center back on the straight of grain, stay stitched immediately, and hung the pieces for several days to allow the bias to grow out. I attached 1inch strips of organza on the straight grain to the zipper opening for additional reinforcement.

Organza to stabilize zipper
Organza pockets strengthened by cutting each piece out on the cross grain and straight grain

In spite of my best efforts, when I tried the skirt on it had stretched on the bias and no longer fit at the waist. I added two rather large darts in the back of the skirt.

I finished the waistband with a petersham ribbon using a similar method to Goodbye Valentino here.  Instead of under stitching and trimming, I placed the petersham on the right side of the fabric, above the skirt's waistband finishing line.  I sewed it down and then flipped it to the inside where I used a fell stitch to attach the bottom of the petersham.  

Close up of the lace

I wore the skirt again for dinner the other night to celebrate our third wedding anniversary at Le CouCou.  This time I paired it with a different black top (a refashioned nightgown!), a belt and some suede wedges.  Much preferred the skirt with this outfit than at the wedding. Though I'm not thrilled with the addition of the belt...

Dressed up for Anniversary Dinner 

About Le Coucou:  I had been following the chef, Daniel Rose, since the launch of Spring in Paris many years ago.  Rose's food is decidedly modern with some very strong nods to the 50s/60s cult classics that I associate with Julia Child or Paul Bocuse: Omelette Norvegienne, Quenelles de Brochette with lobster bisque.  But we also dined on some thoroughly modern fare, my favorite being the eel fried in rye flour with a mango curry sauce.  The atmosphere, service, wine, vibe...all excellent.  The chef came over to our table and chatted with us for 10+ minutes and I geeked out over my favorite French nostalgia dish, "coulibiac," which he recently prepared for a private party but does not plan to add to the menu.  A few days before our reservation, Le CouCou won the James Beard Award for best new restaurant (US).  Probably little chance of snagging a reservation again...

Monday, May 1, 2017

NYC Sewing Meetup: Comme des Garçons at the Met

The Met Costume Institute's Spring exhibition, Comme des Garcons Rei Kawakubo | Art of In Between  is finally here!  Rei Kawakubo is a Japanese designer who is best known for designs that result in wearable(ish) art, as opposed to functional garments.  Since there are fewer parallels with traditional garment construction, I must admit I'm not as excited for this one as in years past. Still, it's hard not to get swept up in the glamour of the Met Gala and the celebrity interpretations of the designer's oeuvre...Inspiration needn't come from an item of conventional beauty, right?  

I would like to invite you to visit the exhibition with me on Saturday, May 20  +  a post-exhibition lunch at my apartment a short walk from the Met. Last year's meet up (posted here) was a great success!  It was so energizing to connect with others over our shared interest.  

Please RSVP to by Friday, May 12.  I look forward to meeting you!

-Claire (aka Domestic Coquinette)

                                   Schedule of Meet Up Events:

10am: Meet on the North corner of the front steps facing 5th Ave (side closest to 85th St)
 Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue

  • We will plan to visit the galleries from 10am-12:00pm. You are of course welcome to stay for however short or long you would like, or hop to other galleries.  
  • Note on ticket price:  Please bring $ for admission.  Admission to the Met is pay as you wish, with the suggested ticket price of $25.  Official ticketing details from the Met are here.  

12:15pm – 4pm: Drop in for lunch and conversation at Claire's in the Upper West Side

  • Note on food:  Please be my guest for lunch!  Vegetarian options will be provided.  
  • Note on location: My apartment is a 15 minute walk west across Central Park from the Met (5 minutes by crosstown bus).  Address and directions provided when you RSVP to me directly at  


Please RSVP to Claire at 
by Friday, May 12 


P.S.  Feel free to share the meet up details with others in the sewing community via Instagram, blog, word of mouth, etc.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Winslow Culottes, Take Two

Don't you just love this whole ensemble?

I was so inspired by Teggy French's outfit, that I ordered the top and set out to make gingham culottes this past summer.  Here is my version:

Although I originally intended to copy Teggy French's look wholesale, my friend Carol suggested that I steer away from the cotton gingham used in Teggy's Vivetta skirt because of its tendency to look "Suzy Homemaker."  We searched the Garment District during Male Pattern Boldness Day back in August and came up with this beautiful houndstooth silk charmeuse.  I got the last of the bolt--2.5 yards.

Helen's Closet recommends 4 yards of 54" fabric for view D.  I barely squeezed the culottes out on 2.5 yards by abutting the straight edges and making a single cut.

I previously made the Winslows in a rayon challis here.  Although I always thought that natural fibers were king, I do prefer the drape of the rayon challis version to this latest silk version.   Plus, the challis is travel friendly because it doesn't need to be ironed.

I interfaced the waistband with muslin and used SewKeyse stay tape to interface the zipper area.  I sewed french seams throughout.

The crotch seams didn't line up perfectly because of my own error (I am sure).  Next time I will baste the pant back all the way from crotch to top back before inserting the zip.  Then I will interface and insert the zip, followed by sewing down the waistband.

The waistband is created by simply folding a rectangle in half.  If I make this again, I'd like to change the waistband to two pieces with the edge stitching on the inside facing piece. True Bias has a great tutorial for the Emerson pants.

I was pretty displeased with the stitch in the ditch on my first pair of Winslows, so I opted for a fell-stitched finish here.  Hand sewing produced a much neater result!

Not sure how much use I will get out of this outfit as it is a bit dressy.  The culottes are the proper length with heels but I was constantly worried I was going to trip over myself...;)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Glamorous and Fabulous" Kaftan in Thailand


The purpose of my February vacation to Thailand (more on that here) was to attend the Indian beach wedding of one of my oldest friends.  A multi-day Indian wedding can be a bit intimidating from a wardrobe perspective, especially if your only previous experience with a saree involved three YouTube videos and ended with running out the door in a skirt/blouse...

The dress code for the opening night party, Sangeet, specified "glamorous and fabulous."   I opted for an east-west fusion look with a vintage kaftan pattern I had been eyeing since seeing Closet Case Pattern's version in linen.


From the 70's, Simplicity 5310, is my first vintage pattern. Purchased on Etsy, the pattern is essentially two rectangles with armholes.

I used a full four yards of purple silk crepe de chine from Paron's in the Garment District.  The kaftan is unlined (I wore a slip), though in retrospect I should have lined it as the silk is not entirely opaque. 

My number one complaint about the instructions is that they did not specify the use of interfacing anywhere. Had I followed the instructions as-is, the folded over neckline with no interfacing would have looked decidedly "home ec."  Inventing my own instructions, I added silk organza to the back of the neckline and topstitched it in place by machine.  The trim covers the stitching. When I make this again, I plan to draft an all-in-one facing for the neckline.

Armholes basted and ready to be sewn

I also interfaced the armholes with silk organza and used a combination of fusible and silk organza along the waistband.


Instead of simple ties in the back interior of the dress, I created a back stay with purple petersham and a metal hook and bar.

I omitted the button hole at the back neck and just sewed it up straight, as there was plenty of room for my head to go through the neck opening.


Sewing by hand, I applied the trim to the waistband and around the neckline.  The trim is from East Coast Trimming in the Garment District and is the result of an impromptu shopping trip with Carol, Carolyn and Grace. (Thanks ladies!)

About the wedding itself?  From fireworks to performances by a troupe of lady boys(!!!) to the groom's arrival on an was glamorous, fabulous and completely exhausting.  In the best of ways! Among the four events, I wore RTW to mehendi and the wedding ceremony, the kaftan to Sangeet, and my Asaka Kimono to the other evening event.



The Sunday morning wedding ceremony was Sikh, but the festivities also incorporated traditions from two other dharmic faiths: hindu (groom) and Buddhist (nod to Thailand).

Sikh Wedding Ceremony with incredible "chuppah" of orchids!  
Buddhist blessing by monks

 I loved oggling all of the beautiful sarees, lehenga cholis, kurtis, etc. and the beautiful fabrics, embellishments, and colors worn by many of the female guests.  Most of the men wore embellished linen kurtas (tunics), perfect for the sweltering heat.  I wonder if I can find an Indian fabric store in Jackson Heights??

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

To The Races: Steeplechase Take II

In the data-gathering spirit, Michael and I recently started tracking our gym check-ins against one another.  The loser has to cook the winner a dinner of their choosing AND clean up that night. He beat me by 50% in January with 15 check-ins vs. my 10 and even more in February!

You can probably guess which one of us takes competition NYC-style seriously....;)

This is my second version of Fehr Trade's Steeplechase for inseam-less leggings. First version here. The fabric is a Roberto Cavalli spandex purchased at Elliott Berman.  All seams were sewn on my new Brother 1034D serger. 

Although a simple project, I did do some skill building. I discovered a new favorite way to join elastic in the round courtesy of Nancy Zieman.  Nancy uses a zigzag to join elastic over a piece of woven material here.  This method eliminates the bulk of the overlapping elastic ends, making the join undetectable. 

Sewing the elastic over a woven.  After this I trimmed the woven fabric away

I also topstitched the elastic with small vertical machine stitching at the side seams, front and back.  This prevents the elastic from twisting and is virtually undetectable in the busy print.    

Fabric cost exceeded the Danskin leggings I recently purchased on sale, leading me to question whether I will continue experimenting with me-made activewear.  Cost aside, I am always a little worried that me-mades will split down the center back in the middle of a squat!  Anyone else have this fear???