Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Got Arms?

Most sewists and dressmakers do not have a dummy with arms, and it is generally because most of us have an economical and adjustable dummy model, rather than a higher quality, fixed-size professional model (and even these don't usually come with arms). So, what if you need arms for your dummy and you don't have them? You make them! 

The most effective and inexpensive way to make dummy arms is to get old school and pull a playing card from the high-end department stores and boutiques, whose skilled and talented visuals staff constructs the displays that draw us in and encourage us to depart with our cash. Think soft, adjustable, and removable, just like the arms used in the males manikins pictured above left. Of course, these arms aren't glamorous or realistic looking, but they work very well to determine the general fit of a garment and for staging a costume. 

Let's begin...

No. 1: You'll need a bit of fiber fill, about 1/2 yards of cotton or cotton-like fabric (I used some leftover craft felt), two wire hangers, pliers (or wire cutters), and masking or duck tape (not shown). 

No. 2: Measure the length of your arm from the top of the shoulder socket to wrist, and the circumference of your wrist for later (my arm is 20" long and my wrist is 7" around). Using the pliers or cutters, snip the hangers two inches shorter than your arm length. 

No. 3: Using about 1/4 yard - or half - of your fabric (from the fold of the fabric to the salvage edge), cut two long 1/8 yard strips (one for the left arm and one for the right), and tightly wrap these around the hanger wire and tape off the ends. 

No. 4: With your remaining 1/4 yard of fabric, slice it into two pieces across the fold line - these will be your arms and they should both measure about 9" wide. Cut the width of the fabric to the width of your wrist, adding a 1/2 seam allowance. NOTE: If your wrist is wider than 9", you will need more fabric for this step. 

No. 5: Fold the arm tubes in half length-wise and sew across the top edge on one end only, then about 3" down the side. Then, dog-ear the top corners and trim the ears; turn right side out...

No. 6: Using a good-size wad of fiber fill, begin wrapping this around the fabric covered wire. This takes a bit of finessing, but you can do it. (Does anyone else think that this looks like larvae?)

No. 7: Take a small bit of fiber fill and stuff the finished end of the arm tube; then, insert one end of the covered hanger wire. Pulling the sides of the arm tubes together (the edges should be slightly rolled under), begin to hand-stitch the tube together (I used a blanket stitch). It will take a bit of finger dexterity, but we dressmakers are know for our awesome dexterous skills...  

No. 8:  Once the arm tube is stitched up to the other end of the hanger wire (but no further - you should have about 2"+ of excess fabric from here), secure the side seam, then close the tube by stitching across and over to the folded side, leaving the excess fabric of the tube.

Your finished arms should look like this, with the excess fabric being the tab from which you will secure the arms to your dummy. 

Simply pin them on to give your garment greater shape and definition...

 Leave the bag for the cat...

Blessings and happy sewing, my friends! 

Monday, November 13, 2017

The 1980s: An Age of Excess at Kent State Museum of Fashion

Me (1988)

I was a teenager in the 1980s, graduated from high school in the 1980s, and had my first daughter in the 1980s. I watched MTV air in August 1981 at a friend's house (we didn't have cable television - most people didn't); I didn't care about "Who Shot JR?", but scrambled home from work on Tuesday evenings to watch Moonlighting (when Bruce Willis had hair); stood in line and waited for two hours outside of the Buzzard's Nest record store to buy Van Halen's new 1984 album; and camped out on my mom's waterbed for a day and watched all of Live Aid. The year my first daughter was born - 1989 - the Cold War ended in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell, and I sat transfixed to the television that summer as a lone man stood in protest before a tank in Tienanmen Square, Beijing. The decade that made up the 1980s was technologically innovative, politically charged, and ridiculously decadent, much like the '80s a century before.  

When I discovered that Kent State Museum of Fashion was featuring an exhibit from the 1980s, I flipped my lid in excitement. The 1980s: An Age of Excess, opened last February and concludes January 7, 2018. It is a marvelous presentation of the decade's high-end fashion and includes extant garments from designers Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, Perry Ellis, Valentino, Donna Karan, Bob Mackie, Issey Miyaki, Zandra Rhodes, Pauline Trigere, and a dozen others whose fashions graced the figures of superstars, politicians, and socialites alike. Here's a preview...

Bill Blass
An American designer who began his work in New York in 1945; he was one of the first designers to license his name and product lines. 

Pale pink knit sweater and satin skirt, c. 1984

Royal blue silk velvet gown with low V-back, c. 1986

Donna Karen
An American designer who began her career as a designer for Anne Klein in the 1960s. In 1985, Karan launched her own line of women's ready-to-wear and was one of the first designers to use stretch fabrics in her collections. 

Evening dress made from polyamide, elastane, and wool jersey, c. 1984

Hot pink linen jacket with matching pants and halter blouse, c. 1987

Oscar de la Renta
An American designer (Yes, American - born in the Dominican Republic) trained by Cristobal Balenciaga and Antonio del Castillo in the 1950s and 1960s. He is best known for his evening wear, which dominated red carpet events throughout the 1980s. 

Royal blue moire gazar sleeveless gown, c. 1982

Two-piece lace and velvet evening gown with faux jewels, c. 1984

Perry Ellis
An American designer who established his sportswear label in 1978. He is known for his relaxed and casual designs.

 Grey and white striped jersey jacket and skirt, c. 1987

 Purple sequined chiffon blouse with silk skirt, c. 1989

Yves Saint Laurent
A French designer who began his career working in Paris for Christian Dior in the late 1950s. In 1962, Saint Laurent opened his own house, and is best known for his Mondrian collection in 1965 and his Russian collection in 1976. 

Velvet evening jacket and matching skirt, floral brooch, c. 1980

Metallic brocade jacket, silk shirt and skirt, with matching scarf, c. 1984

Kent State Museum of Fashion has an extensive costume collection from the 1980s; the museum opened in 1982 and several of the garments featured in the current exhibit are those worn by celebrity guests who attended the museum's opening gala. If you love the fashion of the 1980s, you must experience this exhibit.

For additional photos of The 1980s: An Age of Excess, please visit my Pinterest page. Blessings and happy sewing!