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The answer to that question is yes.  Apparently a LOT of people want my copy of McCall’s 4425.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not giving it away, so feel free to clench your little fists and punch your screens in frustration over the very enticing and misleading title of this post. McCall’s 4425 is one of the jewels of my hefty, enviable collection of vintage gown patterns. I stalked eBay for a long time to find this one in a small size and I had to bid-bomb many weak, inferior eBayers to win it. And it does bring me joy to gaze at its beauty and know that I have what so many others desperately covet.

What does NOT bring me joy is the sheer number of people who email me asking me if they can have it, buy it for cheap, or if I can (seriously??) make them a copy and send it to them. (This is not a knitting pattern- we’re not talking about a 3-minute photocopy job here.) Inevitably the writers of the emails justify their requests by quoting the ridiculously high prices that vintage pattern dealers want for original copies of the pattern, and by telling me that they desperately need it for a wedding/gala/cotillion but don’t want to pay that much. What am I supposed to say in response? “OMG are you serious??? They’re charging $150 for  the pattern?  Oh you POOR THING!! Take mine!” Listen, peeps, I know how much the pattern costs- I actually bought it, which is how it came to be that I have it. I’ve had it for so long that I don’t remember how much I paid for it (certainly not $150) but I know it was NOT CHEAP. So it drives me kind of insane when people “graciously” offer to reimburse me for the cost of tissue paper to make a copy and for the postage it would cost for me to send it to them when I actually paid the money for this pattern that they don’t want to pay. (Also not my favorite?  When people say, “The cheapest I’ve seen it for online is $125, and that’s ridiculous.  Would you be willing to sell yours for $50?”  That’s just bad negotiation skills in a seller’s market.)

Now, I don’t mean to come across as a let-them-eat-cake (let-them-wear-cashmere?) seamstress (even though, let’s face it, I am a freakin’ empress) I realize that not everyone can afford to splurge hugely on patterns (I certainly wouldn’t pay $150 for it), and I know what it’s like to covet that elusive vintage tissue paper masterpiece. But when something is out of my budget, I’m not about to email strangers on the internet and ask them if I can have theirs for free or if they can make me a copy for a fraction of the price, and then explain the request by saying that it’s just too expensive for me to buy my own. Lots of things are expensive- Prada boots, signed first editions of Catcher in the Rye, Warhols, Bernina 830s… I can’t afford them, can you send me yours? I’ll pay for shipping.

So I received an innovative request from Traci, who stumbled upon my blog while looking for the pattern, asking if she could “rent” the pattern for a short period of time such that she could copy it herself. I have to give a big thumbs-up to Traci for proposing a solution that would require neither hours of labor on my part, nor giving up my precious pattern at a fraction of market value, while actually offering compensation for the request.  Thank you, Traci, for being decent. If Selfish had even a tiny sliver of goodwill to bestow, she would give it to you. Of course, shipping my rare patterns across the oceans to strangers without any guarantee that they’ll come back isn’t the wisest of ideas, and I don’t feel quite right about distributing my patterns for a fee such that others can make copies.

What I proposed instead was that I would send her a good quality photo of the pattern piece drawings such that she might be able to recreate the dress herself. For all the hullaballoo over McCall’s 4425, it’s actually relatively simple- a basic double-darted strapless sheath with an asymmetrical front hemline, and an additional draped panel that gathers into a little loop at the hip. And being the magnanimous sewing empress that I am, I’m providing the images to you as well, out of the quasi-kindness of my teeny, tiny, almost nonexistent heart:

Photos of pattern envelopes seem to be pretty standard fare on the web, so I’m going to assume there’s nothing unethical about posting them here. If the good folks at McCall’s think otherwise, I’ll remove them. In the meantime, you can click on them for larger views. See?  It’s really not that complicated a pattern. (I’m guessing that what people really want is that drape, so you could easily start with any strapless sheath pattern and just modify it to accommodate the drape going off of the photos above.)

Incidentally, there are people on the web selling what I assume are unauthorized copies of this pattern if you really want it, but even the copies seem to run around the $100 mark. I’m not going to post links because I don’t want to promote those businesses, but if you Google and check Etsy, you’ll probably find some. As for making copies of my own, I’ll reiterate what I’ve got on my FAQ:

Despite lots of inquiring and searching, I have never been able to find definitive information that convinces me that copying and distributing vintage patterns from the 1950s is legal in all cases. In addition, copying patterns is time consuming and requires big paper and lots of space. If you can provide me with evidence that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a particular pattern is no longer under copyright (and by this I mean something along the lines of a record from the US Copyright Office indicating that the copyright on a specific pattern has expired, not a quote from an ill-informed rant about pattern copyright on someone’s blog), then we can talk. My hypothetical fee for legally copying patterns is the same as my hypothetical fee for sewing: $85/hour for labor plus all materials costs.

Now. How may I help you?

Readers, in these busy times my sewing hours seem to be relegated to the block of time from  11:00PM until midnight (err, or sometimes a wee bit later at the expense of sleep), and you can imagine that this is just enough time for me to pull out my materials and equipment, do a tiny bit a of sewing, make some show-stopping screwup that I wouldn’t have made had I not been so tired, and then give up in disgust. Naturally this has made your typically-grumpy Selfish Seamstress even grumpier than typical. So although I have no new sewing worth showing here, I will engage you with a funny anecdote followed by a rant regarding some recent Etsy explorations.

First the anecdote.  It was brought to my attention that an Etsy seller was offering up dresses that look remarkably similar to the Coffee Date Dress, the pattern for which I make available for free download. Upon inspection, the similarity was indeed quite uncanny.  The Coffee Date Dress, being quite simple, is by no means an innovation of design, and plenty of other designs also have a neck ruffle without being similar enough to make me wonder. But this dress was really *really* similar in those details that you notice when you’ve made or designed something- similar in the not-quite-scooped-but-not-quite-jewel neckline which is fairly unique, in the particular amount of flair of the a-line skirt, in the exact placement, proportion, and folding of the ruffle. The dress was rendered in a knit with no back darts and no zipper, unlike the Coffee Date Dress, and topstitched around the arm openings, but otherwise looked in shape and line pretty much like my own design and quite different from the store’s other drapier, ruched offerings. Realizing this could have been a coincidence but finding the similarity of the design to my own really startling, I sent an neutrally worded message to the store inquiring whether they had perhaps used my design, and if so I did not mind and do not charge, but would they be so kind as to credit me for it?

Anyway, a couple of days later, I received an email back from the store that was, let’s say… humorously defensive :) I mean, I can completely understand if the similarity was a coincidence. Free pattern production and Etsy clothing shops aren’t exactly high stakes games anyway so it’s not like I was getting my lawyer on the phone. The store basically pointed out that their dress is made of a knit and that their ruffle is hemmed rather than cut on the fold so it they clearly didn’t use my pattern or design, but their own. I don’t know if I follow that logic, but if they say it’s their own pattern and design, I can take them at their word for that.  So what’s the funny part?  The funny part was the last line of their message:

“I also removed the dress from my shop as nobody liked it and nobody wanted to purchase it.”

I love it! The Selfish Seamstress is a huuuuuge fan of passive-aggression (if you can’t tell, check out THIS VERY POST), and feels it is a tremendously underrated behavioral pattern. It’s fun to listen to, and it’s fun to do! Anyway, too bad for the Etsy store that nobody liked their dress; more than 100,000 people have downloaded mine.  (Yes! I just totally out-passive-aggressived them!)

Okay, but after that little humorous incident, onto the actual rant. A couple of days ago I was poking around Etsy, and I found a listing for this blue taffeta dress on a different store:

Whoa.  Hold up there a sec. Does that look familiar? Surely none of you have ever run into this pattern before, or perhaps even made it up yourselves? UNCANNY. The dress is available in size medium, but the seller says she’ll also make it for you custom in the size and color of your choice.*

I realize that some people may not realize that manufacturing garments from copyrighted patterns for sale is illegal**, and I have no objections when someone who doesn’t sew pays someone who does to make a garment for them from a pattern, nor do I fail to realize that we take inspiration from other people’s work as part of the creative process. But this is ballsy. Here’s a snippet from the Etsy seller’s description of the garment:

“I gave it a beautiful cut with gathered bodice and gathered skirt. There is a hand gathered ruffle around the low scoop neckline that gradually grows bigger around the back of the neck. It frames the face perfectly.”

No.  NO. No. YOU did not give it a beautiful cut with a gathered bodice and gathered skirt.  A nice lady named CYNTHIA ROWLEY gave it a beautiful cut with a gathered bodice and gathered skirt, and then a nice little company called Simplicity made that cut available to you so you could make a dress for yourself, NOT so you could take credit for it and resell it as your own.

I’m not interested in policing Etsy or playing Big 4 anonymous tipster, and I realize that Simplicity probably isn’t losing any business from this person. But it peeves me as I see more and more Etsy stores hawking renditions of commercial patterns (and it happens A LOT) and claiming them as their own designs because I just don’t understand what they get out of it. Unless you’re the next Vivienne Westwood-type innovator who can command big bucks for gorgeous, unique pieces, or you’re selling basic tubes of stretchy fabric that can be whipped up in 10 minutes, there’s probably not much money to be made in one-person operations sewing dresses to sell on Etsy. We know how much time it takes to make a dress and how much money you’d have to charge for it to make it a decent source of income as an Etsy store. So why else would you do it unless you want to scratch that creative itch and share YOUR OWN ideas and creations? And if you just love sewing that much but don’t want to design your own stuff, then why wouldn’t you say it was “inspired by” or an “homage to” the design you’re knocking off? Why would you claim creative credit for Cynthia Rowley’s ideas and put yourself at risk for a lawsuit from a pattern giant for what probably ends up being pocket change after you factor in labor and materials costs? You’re not even making a quick buck off contraband design.

Maybe it’s just me who gets annoyed at such things. Maybe it’s because I’m a science professor at a research university and in my line of work we call that “plagiarism” and people lose their jobs and get kicked out of school for claiming credit for others’ work. Or maybe I just need to find more sewing time to calm my nerves, stop me from writing pointless, bitchtastic posts, and keep me from wanting to punch everyone I encounter. I guess I could lose my job for that last one too.

*Haha! I didn’t ask permission to use your image on my blog, nor did I give you credit for it! See how that feels?  You wanna sue me over it?  Do you??

** Ok, it seems that experts who know more than I are suggesting that this practice is not technically illegal (though I suspect there’d still be a lawsuit if a big clothing manufacturer started producing from copyrighted patterns en masse). I appreciate that informed people have taken time to share their expertise – thanks! And I apologize for putting potentially inaccurate information on the internet and acknowledge my potential misinterpretation of pattern copyright. But the whole issue of legal vs. illegal was not the point of this post, and people who feel the need to write incredibly rudely worded comments (now deleted) complaining that I dedicated a “whole post” to the illegality of someone else’s actions should read before they write “whole comments” making inaccurate accusations themselves. The point of this post was not law (though I appreciate the constructive comments on that topic), but creativity and claiming credit for the work of others. And for the record, I make no claims in this post about my own pattern having actually been used by Etsy sellers, being under copyright, or legally requiring credit or compensation. I put my work out there so others can use it and benefit from it, and I request acknowledgment as a matter of courtesy and ego, not law. 

The Selfish Seamstress has a disproportionately large waist. It’s nothing that can be corrected with crunches or dieting; I’m simply built like a cylinder. And before you make any diagnoses of body dysmorphic disorder, I’d like to point out that I’m basing this on (somewhat) empirical evidence. For example, according to the Big 4 size charts, I’m size 4 in the bust and hip, and between a 10 and 12 in the waist. Even as a scrawny, smallest-in-my-class kid in elementary school, and a 90-pound ballet dancer/cheerleader(!) in college, every time I had my measurements taken for a costume, the teacher or costumer would say, “Wait, that can’t be right,” and I would have to assure them that it was indeed, and that my waist really was that much larger than those of my dancer peers, and yes, that’s just my anatomy, and no, their expressions of shock at my huuuuge waist measurement were not doing wonders for my self-esteem. Smaller-than-average hips plus smaller-than-average bust plus larger-than-average waist is sort of the opposite of “curves.” Instead of of having “curves,” I have what could be referred to as “straights.” As one might phrase it nicely, “She’s not fat, she’s just big-waisted.”

And although I’m shaped like the world’s fastest hourglass, the only real inconvenience of this shape is the occasional need to alter patterns at the waist. Dresses, jackets, and tops are usually fine without alteration; wearing ease seems to accommodate me and my monstrous midriff just fine.  But skirts and pants occasionally need a little extra room, probably because the waist of skirts or pants need to be close fitting such that they actually stay up. I’m currently making slow progress (sewing time these days is very limited) on view B of Simplicity 2451, which is going fine construction-wise but is starting give off a vague air of frump:

After holding the tissue paper pieces of the yoke up to my waist, I could see that I was going to need to add a little room just to the waist edge and that the hip would be fine. No pics from the skirt, but here’s an example of how I did this on my Vogue 1051 alice + olivia pants. I first traced the original yoke pieces onto scrap paper, made some slashes through the curved parts, and spread them at the waist edge to add about 1/4″ to each piece. If you slash each piece 4 times like I did, then you only need to spread the slashes open by 1/16″ at the waist edge.  Add all these tiny slashes together and that’s an extra inch added to the total circumference of the waistband (16 slashes of 1/16″ each.) Notice that the bottom hip edge of the yoke remains the same  because I didn’t need to add any extra at the hip. The purists would then trace the new shapes onto paper and work from those, but I just used the slashed pattern pieces and some scotch tape directly on my fabric.

Here you can see the difference between the original pattern pieces and the edited ones. It doesn’t look like much, but it makes a difference. You’ll also notice that a little bit of the curvature of the yoke is lost.  If your waist is large-ish in proportion to your hip, this is what you want.  Think about a making a cuff to go around a cylinder versus a funnel – you’d need a straight strip of paper to go around the cylinder, but a curved piece to go around a funnel. And if you’re closer to a cylinder than a funnel, then you need a straighter waistband.

Now that we’ve gone through the instructional portion of this post, I’d like to get to my real point. Much in the way that it didn’t exactly feel great when my dance teachers would stare in disbelief at the tape measure wrapped around my teenage midsection, I’m never exactly overjoyed to find that a pattern fits everywhere except for in the waist, where it is woefully small. Other deviations from the standard are addressed with names that sound somewhat flattering; you might need to alter your pattern to accommodate a “full bust” or a “swayback” or “sloping shoulders.” Or perhaps you are “petite” or “tall.” Nothing sounds good about having to alter a pattern on account of having a larger than average waist.

Obviously the Selfish Seamstress is about as perfect as one can be, physically and otherwise, so she sees no need to saddle herself with unflattering terminology. I’m therfore introducing… the FWA. Yes, I’m now going to refer to my pant and skirt edits as a “Full Waist Adjustment.” Doesn’t that sound all womanly and curvy and voluptuous? I want people to sigh with envy when they read that I had to alter a pattern by doing a 2″ FWA. People should read my blog entries, look down doubtfully at their own sad, deficient middles and wonder why they weren’t blessed by the gods with the kind of midriff endowment that the Selfish Seamstress has. Pre-teen girls should look at photos of me and wonder when their waists are going to develop. Guys should meet me at parties and then have this kind of conversation on the following day:

Guy 1: Dude, did you meet that Elaine chick last night?

Guy 2: Seriously, I know.  She was like [makes crude gesture of putting his hands in the space on either side of his waist] out to here. [Two older women at the next table look over disapprovingly]

Guy 1: Daaaamn, I could not stop staring at her waist. It was driving me crazy.  And she knew it too. She knew I was into it.

Guy 2: Whoa, dude, did you hit that?

Guy 1: Pfft, I WISH! Seriously, the last girl I went out with was, like, 23″ max. And that was AFTER eating. It was pathetic. Her face was okay though.

[Ugh, and for those of you who are about to comment something stupid like, “Haha, I have the exact opposite problem! Patterns are never small enough for my 22″ waist! It’s so inconvenient- I eat whatever I want, and my waist just stays tiny! Even my doctor says I have to gain weight, and I don’t even exercise!” you should know that my eyeroll switch is always triggered well before my envy switch. First, allow me to congratulate you not only on your figure but also on your complete freedom from self-awareness; second, yes, you can use this trick to make the waist of a pattern smaller- just overlap the pieces slightly at the waist edge rather than spreading them apart; and third, I think there are some other, more interesting blogs waaaayyyyy over there that you might want to check out.]

Well everyone, it’s been a couple of months since I moved, and yet I’m still not back on top of my sewing or blogging. Jeez, I’m still not on top of my unpacking.  I will confess to having sewn up a cowl necked sweater from a back issue of Burda which I have yet to photograph mostly because it came out kind of bleh. And I’m starting work on something new and exciting, pictures to come.

As for Burda, they’re starting the year off promptly with their January 2011 early preview already online. Readers, one of my big sewing wishes for the coming year is some *great* Burdas.  I haven’t gone back to check, but I get the feeling I didn’t sew anything from a single 2010 issue. January issues have to be judged with a bit of a handicap because they usually have the cuddly but run of the mill stay-at-home-on-the-couch sweats collection (doubtless the only things that fit after too many holiday sweets), and the Fasching gear, which is often more craft than sewing.  Let’s get our chuckles out of the way now, shall we?

If anyone makes this and can send me a photograph of the finished costume (yes, puffy arms and all) on a man out in public, I will happily feature you on my blog as one of my great sewing heroes. Even the Selfish Seamstress is not enough of a beeyatch to subject Dan to this pasty-armed, spinat-laced delight.

So, the good news is that there’s some great styling in this issue and looks like it could have quite a bit of potential for the tall ladies. These clothes would eat me alive, but look cute on the models, such as the below-the-knee flared skirt:

And this 1930s-inspired, single-breasted belted coat, again hitting well below the knee:

And this looks pretty, even though I suspect that under the cinching obi style belt, it’s just another one of those really long shirts that Burda likes so much, possibly with a slanted placket. We’ll see soon!

Then there are some other garments that I think *could* look good on the right tall women, but would probably be Hefty bags on most mortals, and certainly on the pinky finger-sized Selfish Seamstress:

In case you’re wondering what such a dress looks like on an intellectual, here it is again, this time with books and glasses:

If she’s so smart, why’d she pick that dress?  Hahahaha. I love how funny I find myself to be!

Anyway, better a roomy dress than a roomy crotch:

Please someone explain to me why this trend is not dead yet. It’s not because Burda is a European magazine. I’m here in Europe, and people are not walking around with webbed thighs. It’s aspirational dressing I suppose, if what you aspire to be is a flying squirrel:

Maybe I’m just turned off by the fact that these pants are misguidedly tucked into above-the-knee boots with giant flappy cuffs. The correct accessories for these pants would be a “what are you looking at” stance and your best bitchface:

Perfect for kicking back with some DVDs on a winter afternoon.

By the way, there’s always someone who comes by and comments that they love the Hammer/harem pants, and that they’re soooo comfy and sexy. All I can say is that although I don’t agree with your opinion, I completely support your right to wear them, as well as my right to snicker cruelly once you are out of earshot.

And once again, the plus sizes garments are the winners. So classic, so wearable, so pretty, and so beautifully styled. My work wardrobe is definitely calling out for a scarlet tie blouse and camel pencil skirt:

Based on this limited preview, there’s nothing for me yet, but overall the issue isn’t looking bad, especially if you’re tall or plus. It gives me a little hope that there might be some goodies in it for me once the full preview is out. And with the holidays looming up ahead, I’m all about the goodies for ME.

The December issue of Burda isn’t usually my favorite because it usually contains a lot of evening dresses and cocktail attire that I don’t need for my everyday activities of grumbling, backstabbing, and cookie scarfing. As such, and based on the early partial preview, I didn’t have particularly high hopes when I clicked on the full preview for the 12.2010 issue which has now popped up on the German Burda site.

Umm, let’s just say that an overabundance of evening attire isn’t really a problem this time around. I’m a little more concerned about this:

On a related note, I take some issues with this:

And I’m really none-too-pleased about this:

I’m especially worried that perhaps white poly chiffon as daywear is making a comeback, because I’m pretty sure I gave that habit up after a bit of a chiffon bender at the Unique Boutique in 1993.

As for this cut, Blanche Devereaux, anyone?

Not so much?  How about some Dorothy Zbornak style?

There’s also this, which is kind of like an unsexy version of the Ann Taylor dress that I was considering knocking off for a while:

I’m tempted to make one of these hot little numbers for frisky nights at home. Seriously.  I think that would be hilarious.

Honestly, my favorite stuff from this issue is the knitted stuff. I don’t think I’ll buy the issue for the knitting patterns, but I think this is the best of December (minus the Scandinavian bands on the sleeves):

Other than that, I’m not feeling good about this issue.  And as much as I appreciate a good snark, I would gladly trade in snide Burda commentary for a great Burda issue for a month. I adore Burda- it got me sewing for real in the first place – but I haven’t loved an issue in a while (August 2009, perhaps?) It kind of breaks my heart. Here’s hoping for some great, great Burdas in 2011. And if that fails, I just ordered all the (fantastic!) 2006 issues from eBay.

I’ve started to accept the fact that the whole 80’s trend isn’t really a trend anymore, but a full-blown revival. I barely even notice anymore when girls walk by in leggings, pumps, and legwarmers. But I’m not about to jump on the bandwagon, even if Burda’s early preview for the December issue (thanks again, Burda Russia!) suggests that I might be keen on sewing up a pair of these:

Considering that these pants are spacious from the top all the way down to the oh-so-flatteringly tapered calf, I’m not sure what innovative feats of sewing and construction are keeping the band so appealingly positioned around the model’s lower ribcage. The only gripe I have about this garment is that they don’t have a picture of them paired with the coordinating cropped jacket:

Wasted opportunity, if you ask me.

The 80s weren’t all bad though, and as a 4th grader, I’m sure I would have dreamed about the day that I could have donned this for an awesome party at which Morten Harket, lead singer of A-ha, and I would have fallen in love and probably gotten engaged right there on the spot:

Wouldn’t we have made an adorable couple? I didn’t realize at the time that I wasn’t exactly going to develop into the type that could pull off that dress though, which I assume is probably the reason that Morten and I didn’t end up together after all.

I have to say, I don’t really get this look.  I’m not sure if that’s 80s-related, or just my general failure to comprehend what is going on here:

And the choice of satin pleated Dockers, purple armwarmers, and fur mushroom hat isn’t really helping me to make sense of it. I think she stole the hat from this sensitive lumberjack guy…

… and he is thinking wistfully of the fur hat he lost.

Also kooky? This. Is it Spandex?  Latex?  Hefty bag?

Based on the limited early preview, I’d have to say that this is not on my To-Buy list just yet. If you’re looking for a good plus dress for your fancy holiday parties (Selfish is never invited to parties on account of her tendencies to insult other guests’ outfits and shove more than her fair share of desserts into her purse before the others have had a chance to get to them), this issue does have a beautiful one.  At least I think it’s a plus gown- it’s always so hard to tell with the Burda models:

But far and away my favorite is this dress (though I think a better fit could have been achieved), on account of its resemblance to bad girl Caroline’s dress from the school dance in Sixteen Candles:

Sigh.  I miss the days when lavender ruched taffeta was the uniform of the naughty girls. She smoked, she drank, she was on the pill, she got her hair stuck in doors, she partied, and you know how you could tell?  By all the puffiness in her sleeves! Caroline got a bad rap though. She appreciated Jake for being rich, whereas Molly Ringwald just liked him because he was hot.

I’m pretty sure if I make that Burda dress from the 12.2010 issue, I’ll end up at a party at which Jake from Sixteen Candles falls in love with me.  And no, not the actor who played Jake who left Hollywood to become a carpenter, but JAKE RYAN FOR REAL.

Thank you, Russian Burda! A mere two weeks after the September BurdaMag preview showed up on the German Burda website, the October preview is already available on the Russian site. Extra bonus- the Russian site has even more photos from the upcoming Burda Easy Fashion, which I mentioned yesterday.

First up, 10.2010. For some reason, the photos from this issue strike me as even less decipherable than usual. I’m not sure if this is because the photos aren’t showing the garments off well, or if because this month’s garments are just tending towards the baggy side. Case in point:

I can’t tell you a thing about this coat other than that I think the fabric is pretty and I’m curious to see more.  Same goes for this jacket:

The shorts are also a pattern. I’m not a shorts-wearing person, but I am really liking the combination of fabric colors and textures that Burda is using here, so I might take some inspiration from that.

If people buy this issue, I think this dress is going to have a LOT to do with it:

From what I can make out, there’s a lot to love about this dress- the interesting neckline and bodice, the cap sleeves, and the skirt that seems to meet the waist flat at the front but pleated or gathered over the hips? Burda’s choice of delicious raspberry fabric combined with twirling just makes it that much more irresistible. Who doesn’t love a good twirling dress? I’ve been trying to refrain from making party clothes. I’ve got too many of them, they don’t get worn enough, and let’s face it, the Selfish Seamstress never gets invited to parties because she always picks fights with other guests and eats more than her fair share of cake. But I’m thinking that the bodice and sleeves of this dress combined with a pencil or slim tulip skirt in a soft menswear suiting might be great for work. Perhaps a dainty little contrasting pleated linen panel across the base of the neckline too. Tempting.

The issue is not without some weirdness. I love a good artistic raw edge, but I think some of the garments take this a bit too far to the point that they look … unfinished. For example this jacket reminds me of nothing so much as what my own jackets look like when I’m about 2/3 of the way through sewing them:

This is the point in jacket-making when I start to worry that maybe the pattern was not a good idea for me, maybe I’ve got the fit all wrong, and maybe it isn’t going to be as chic as I thought. And then I add the collar, try it on, pin it closed and realize that it’s going to be okay. I kind of want them to take that next step with this jacket.

Another piece of weirdness?

Hmmmm. I feel like this one should have red tabs on the bottom that you can pull down on and tubes on either side that you can blow into to inflate the vest in the unlikely event of a water landing. But a soft and cuddly one.

But the most exciting thing for me about the upcoming issue is… the return of designer patterns! For those of you who are newer to Burda, Burda used to offer patterns from high end designers. You could mail away a little coupon with some postage fees (if you lived in Germany), and they would send you the designer pattern in an envelope. Then for a while they switched to just including the pattern in the magazine along with all the other patterns and (my impression at least) going with lesser-known designers. Then they did away with the designer patterns altogether and switched to featuring a pattern inspired by celebrity outfits that you could download from the website for a fee (this was my least favorite.) I don’t know if they’re doing away with the celebrity download thing, but it certainly looks like the designer patterns are back, for this issue at least, with a jacket and skirt from Karl Lagerfeld!

Again, the photo isn’t showing me quite as much as I wish it would, but it looks very interesting so far, especially the soft yet architectural jacket. And the model and I have the same legs, so I assume the cuffed skirt should work out just fine :)

And, as I mentioned, there are also more pictures on the Russian site for the Easy Fashion preview. And how’s this for pretty?

Yay for super early previews! Let’s all give a Большое спасибо to Burda Russia!

Phew!  In answer to the question of whether the new Burda EAZY magazine was intended to replace the beloved semi-annual Burda Easy Fashion, we now have our answer: No. The preview for Easy Fashion is up, and it’s no EAZY.

I haven’t sewn anything from recent issues of Easy Fashion, but I always get very excited about it. It’s such a rare occurrence that I wait for it in anticipation like a greedy child waits for Christmas. (And as you can imagine, I was the greediest of greedy children.) I was really excited flipping through it at first- I think the styling for this issue is especially cute:

Cute outfit and now I really want a plaid circle skirt. Granted, I don’t need pattern to make a circle skirt with a waistband, but I think the cardigan pattern is included as well, and I wouldn’t mind one of those.

The more I look through it though, the more I realize that it doesn’t contain any sewing patterns that I actually want to make, tempting as the issue as a whole is. They definitely found my weakness for leopard print, even though I don’t need a skirt that reveals my bumcrack from below:

Styling can’t save this look though – bustier + denim vest + fascinator + crimped hair… I know the 80’s are back, but this is a bit too much “bad girls in prison dancing in a music video” for me:

There is a nice parka pattern which would be a useful pattern to have in the arsenal, but personally I don’t get too excited about sewing outdoorsy stuff. Looks cozy though, right?

It looks like they’re taking their crafts cues from big sister BurdaMag this time around with the accesories:

Yikes!  That one’s a shame because I think that one could probably do some cute aftermarket glove modification that would look stylish rather than hot glue gun nutso. But worse still:

I know pompoms are fun to make and all, but I think even the model here is trying to caution you against leaving the house like this!

All in all, the issue looks like it’s got a couple of cute patterns though I doubt I’d end up sewing any of them. But maybe the full preview will have more to tempt me. After all, I’ll have easy access to it soon!

Things are going to get a little bit slow here in Selfish Seamstress Land (not officially a country, but it should be!) as the (future) in-laws have arrived in town for a weeklong visit. Fortunately for me, I adore my in-laws. I realize this must come as a shock since after all 1) they’re in-laws and 2) the Selfish Seamstress doesn’t really have the capacity to adore anyone but herself and her cat. So perhaps I just adore them to frustrate you with my contrariness. In fact, there may even be a chance that I’m halfway through knitting a handbag for my wonderful (future) mother-in-law just to disappoint you. Maybe.

Anyway, readers, sewing time is scarce now, and progress on the Vogue 1051 alice + olivia pants is temporarily on hold. But they are just inches from being done and looking gooooood so far. They’re lending credence to my theory that short women can indeed wear wide leg pants if they are proportioned correctly. So fellow munchkin-sized ladies, listen to ME and not your silly fashion magazines that try to tell you otherwise!

Speaking of long-held but shaky conventional fashion wisdom, I have a gripe that’s been simmering in my mind for a while now about seasonal color analysis and I want to gripe it all over you. Seasonal color analysis, for those of you who haven’t run into it yet, is based on the idea that you can determine what colors are most flattering on you based on your coloring- usually some combination of hair color, skin tone, and eye color, with hair color being the most mandatory across different ways of doing the analysis. Based on your coloring, you fall into one of four categories – Spring, Summer, Autumn, or Winter. Each category has recommended colors or color families that supposedly flatter you and, either explicitly or implicitly, colors that should be avoided.

Now, I completely buy the UNDERLYING CONCEPT. Certain skin tones and hair colors work well with certain garment colors and poorly with others (particularly when worn near the face) – I’m on board with this much. What gets me steamed, however, is the way in which most of the analyses and categorizations are done. I’ve looked at several websites for color analysis and they get detailed and subtle about some skin and hair tones- are you cool ash blonde? Honey blonde? Strawberry blonde? Is your hair light brown? Medium brown? Dark brown?  Cool or warm brown? Is your skin porcelain? Ivory? Peach? Warm beige? Olive?

Well, guess what.  If your hair is black, according to any analysis that I have seen, you are a winter. Now, let’s think about this for a second. Based on black hair alone (winter also includes some other hair colors), that winter category is going to contain the vast majority of people of Asian descent, the vast majority of people of ethnic African descent, the majority of Middle Easterners, the majority of Latinos, most Native Americans, most Australian aboriginals, a large number of European caucasians from countries such as Greece, Italy,  Russia, and Spain, and a whole slew of other people besides. Now, I’m no expert on global demographics or population statistics, but I’m going guess very conservatively that people with black hair constitute more than half the world’s population. (And yes, I know there are exceptions, but don’t go bringing up the fact that you know an Indian woman who has beautiful natural red hair or a lovely blonde Puerto Rican as some sort of counterexample intended to prove that black hair isn’t actually that common. That would be what we call “flawed logic.”) So basically we’re talking about the majority of the world’s population supposedly only looking good in one quadrant of the color season spectrum, and the remaining cool blond/honey blond/light brown/chestnut brown/redhead folks sharing the other three quarters (not to mention that some of them also fall into the winter category)? I DON’T THINK SO.

The Selfish Seamstress has been labeled a “winter” more times than she can count by ladies who caution her not to wear off-white or brown in slavish adherence to a color categorization that is clearly flawed when it comes to her more-than-half of the population. (And besides, that’s obviously a load of crap because as we all know, the Selfish Seamstress looks awesome in EVERYTHING.) To take it to a point of extreme skepticism, I even suspect that the black-haired “winters” that the originators of color season analysis had in mind were not the beautiful ebony haired women of Ethiopia, Korea, Columbia, or Pakistan, but rather the raven-tressed Snow White type, with the rest of us tossed into that bin as an afterthought.

If you haven’t already figured out the rather sensitive point that I’m trying to make, I’ll just put it out there baldly- this system fails for women of color because it fails to acknowledge that women of color themselves are a spectrum, rather than a bunch of people who can be easily lumped into a single point on the spectrum. And I’m not just being pouty and pulling some “oppressed minority” BS. Even if I look at my own cousins, all of whom, like me, are of Asian descent, I can tell you that we all have black hair and we all look good in different colors. Some of them look lovely in pastels and some can really pull off brights. Some of us look good in rich, deep colors, and *gasp* some of us DON’T look good in black. What can possibly account for this variation?  The fact that not all black-haired women have the same skin color.

And if it seems silly to suggest that any sort of system intended to offer generalizations should account for the comparatively small variations in skin tone among one Asian-American woman’s cousins, then let bump it up a notch and ask you this- what analysis method worth its salt would take women as varied in coloring and appearance as me, Reethi, Erica, Tany, Cidell, SusanMeli88a, Ariel, Angela, and Carolyn and try to tell us that we all should stick to the same colors simply because we all have black hair? And meanwhile the analysis methods very considerately acknowledge the differences between Ms. Light Chestnut and Ms. Medium Chestnut by suggesting entirely different palettes for each? Pfffffffffffffffft. Let alone the social and racial implications of a system that puts me and most of the rest of the world into a box labeled “Other,” the system simply doesn’t work.

Like I said, I think there’s merit to the underlying idea that one can systematically provide useful color guidelines based on variation in skin tone and hair color. But seasonal color analysis is seriously weak if you aren’t Ms. Strawberry Blonde & Co., and I can’t take an analysis seriously if it doesn’t take me seriously. After all, I look fabulous in brown.

So don’t call me a winter.

Ok, and just like that, after yesterday’s appearance of the September early preview and my subsequent descent into crazitude, the full preview of BurdaMag for September is online. I don’t think I’ll ever really understand their schedule. I’m still not crazy about the folklore stuff, even now that I can see what the garments really look like. One or two are okay. But there seem to be some good patterns in the issue for chic classics.

This is my favorite- it’s simple, but the lines look good, and I have to admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for python print:

And there are the trenchcoats. Again, I’m waiting to see the technical drawing for this one to see if it’s actually got some shaping to it, but so far it appears to be the most sleek-and-simultaneously-classic trench that I’ve ever seen from Burda, even though they tend to put out trench patterns every few months. (Actually, the python print is probably a variant of the same pattern.)

Leather jacket, another garment that looks like it’s got good lines:

And the houndstooth coat is indeed cute, though I’d probably add a collar to it if I were to make it. As one who sews coats often, coats with this shape of neckline and no collar remind me of what my coats look like when I’m 3/4 done with them:

Cute basic skirt could be great for the office:

And cute not-so-basic skirt, also great for the office (I’d shorten it to knee length for my figure):

Also, cute plus size jacket- the skinny self fabric belt is such a nice touch:

Have a look for yourselves. As anticipated, the September issue does tread into crazy territory with some garments, but I think it could be a worthwhile one to have in the arsenal.


fzbhlkmcvlk!! dfg;jaoic.c. Crazy prints hippie skirt petticoat sloppy hat blanket??!! dfgkjnazerw dfoibhjrg:

kjnxzoisdr908t45 ;xclv monkey fur caveman vest bedsheet Hammer pants my eyes on fire WHATTA??! jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj:

dfiumxcds g9b Grammy’s blazer + lace cardigan love child scarf as skirt hiking socks and goats holy whatta flkjmzofpdi:

lfdkjgnoi Burda dfgjklnxcl every stash fabric from the 90s sdfkj kkkikikikkiiiik:


Okay. I think I got that out of my system. “Folklore Furor” indeed. The folklore of stashbusting, obviously.

Ahhh. Classic trenches. I feel better now.

Nice :) I’ll want to see the technical drawings to see if this is fitted the way I like my trenches to be, but doesn’t that look great?

I think this has huge potential on account of the interesting and elegant seaming. I think it takes a certain kind of chic that I do not possess to pull off the proto-sleeve thingies, so I’d probably opt out of those.

I do not love these, but after the Folklore debacle, I will not get upset with you if you do:

Note that the skirt in the latter photo appears to be the bottom half of the funky sleeve dress. I do like the skirt. I am GREATLY DISPLEASED about the reemergence of the dreaded WHITE TIGHTS. Whatta.

This worries me:

Why?  Because of this:

That’s the dreaded ruffle overload blouse from a 1981 issue of Burda, and it looks like 2010 Burda is treading some dangerous waters again.

I am feeling pretty good about this cute coat, though I am a little wary because we’re only seeing the back of it for now:

I’m not sure what those metal discs are along the side seam.  Anyone have any ideas?

Plus size wearers, once again you’re off the hook. You get lovely wearable classics with pretty details again.

Love the gathered neckline on that one, and the interesting-without-being-crazy sleeves. (What’s that kind of sleeve called again?  It’s sort of like the opposite of a leg-of-mutton sleeve, but I forget the name.)

And you get a classic trench as well:

And for better or for worse, crafts are back in the preview! Including some cracked-out foraged wood scrap trophies. I know that button eyes are all quaint and old-fashioned, but they scare the bejeezus out of me:

And this little leather bow thing in case you actually need the instructions to make this:

Anyway, I apologize for my earlier bout of incoherence and insanity. Burda just throws me for a loop sometimes.  A seriously crazy loop. Fingers crossed for some really awesome technical drawings. I need to go rest my eyes now.

I’ve been short for pretty much my whole life, with the exception of a period around the 6th grade when I was smack in the middle of my class in terms of height (I know this because they lined us up according to height for our “graduation” ceremony and I was dead center for the girls.) And you always hear about things that don’t suit this body type, styles that don’t look good on that height or whatever. And then you go to your local Banana Republic or Macy’s, try stuff on, and the mirror confirms what all the magazine fashion “advice” says.

But to tell you the truth, I’ve always held some skepticism about those generalizations for petite people, because so many of them seem to be based on taking garments, shortening at them at the hem, and then declaring that they don’t work. And we all know that correct proportioning is a lot more than just hemming to the right length. I’ve long suspected that some (though not all) of the styles and garments that are deemed to be “unflattering” on short women would actually be fine if proportioned correctly. I secretly even believe that short women could pull off the dreaded cape if they made them at the right length for themselves rather than trying them on at the department store (but testing that theory is not high on my list of priorities right now.) And after discovering last week that pencil skirts don’t turn me into a stump if I make them to fit myself properly instead of relying on Armani Exchange to make a bottom that looks decent on a 5’0″ woman, I’m feeling somewhat emboldened.

And so I’ve decided to take on Vogue 1051, the alice + olivia pant that is decidedly wider in the leg than is generally deemed advisable for a woman with a 25″ inseam. (I’ve gone back and forth on this pattern for a while- I’ve seen the pants made up a lot and while they usually look nice, the made-up versions I’ve seen generally don’t have the swingy edge to them that I like so much about the pattern envelope picture and look more like a standard bootcut trouser silhouette. We’ll see how mine go.)First of all, these pants are loooooong. I did three petite alterations- one in the thigh, one at the knee, and one in the calf (because remember- it’s not just about shortening at the hem!) and probably removed a total of 6″ of length altogether. The final length should be just an inch or two above the floor when I’m wearing heels. And I muslined them up, and you know what?  They don’t turn me into a stump! My theory seems to be panning out thus far.

Ok, so now, about the muslin… I was, as usual, out of old bedsheets to cut up, so I started looking through my stash for something suitable that I didn’t mind sacrificing. (I was going to use some plaid flannel that Dan bought when he decided he was going to sew doggie jackets for all four of his family’s dogs. I told him that after he made one he might not want to make the other three, but he went ahead and bought enough fabric for four anyway, insisting that he would. Guess how many he made. In the end, the dogs just took turns wearing the jacket, and Dan discovered firsthand how stash happens. Anyway, the flannel is soft and nice and would be a great lining for something, so I decided to save it.) It’s utterly shameful to say, but what I decided to sacrifice was… Pendleton wool. Yes, for a muslin.

This is not just any Pendleton wool- this is the wool that BurdaStyle sent me to make the BurdaStyle book coat. Ultimately I ended up substituting coat fabrics due to a necessary last-minute design change, so I ended up with lots of this wool left over. And as shameful as it is to use Pendleton for a muslin, I just knew that I was never ever actually going to use the fabric for a proper garment because it’s not my color:

It’s on a hanger because it’s just far too scratchy to wear without lining. It’s a jacket or heavy bottom weight flannel. The color is darker than sky blue, but not as dark as French blue, and so I’ve been calling it “Viagra blue,” for reasons that should be obvious:

Haha, Viagra reminds me of these little guys. Anyone remember them? I should make some with some of the remaining Pendleton. This is serious.

The pants are kind of fun to put on though because every time I look in the mirror I think I should make a little matching jacket and a polyester tie neck blouse so I can look like a hip grandma from the 70’s. Or better yet, like Mr. Furley:

That guy totally rocks this color. I, however, don’t look so good in it.

For the real version, I’ve cut into one of my most treasured pieces of fabric in my stash, a heathered mocha brushed wool flannel that I picked up on a fabric bender at Mood during the holidays last year. I don’t know how they made this stuff so amazingly soft, but it feels like cashmere and I can easily wear it unlined. It would have been well worth it even at twice its $18/yard price (on the high side for me.)

So that’s where I am, trying to defy well established style advice about wide pants on short legs, using Pendleton as scrap fabric, and making somewhat obscure references to the late 70s and early 80s. I should quit here.

I’m feeling a little upset that the September BurdaMag preview has yet to show up on either the German or Russian Burda websites, so I’m handling this situation in typically diplomatic Selfish Seamstress style: by picking a fight.

Burda, here is your version of the 12-2006-108 tux dress:

And here is the Selfish Seamstress’s version. Don’t get me wrong, Burda. Obviously you are the geniuses behind this dress and I fully acknowledge that, but I think I WIN:

See how smug I look?

Look- even my back looks smug.

As usual, Burda provided a wonderfully drafted pattern. I graded it down to a 32 and the fit is just perfect without any alterations except for shortening at the hem and dropping the waistline about an inch. Oddly the bodice was really short before that, and that was without any petite alterations.

While I was making it, I was trying it on with my orange shoes just to check the length, and surprisingly, I really like the dress with these shoes. It’s extremely unintuitive to me, not because of the plum, but because of the gray. I never think of gray and orange working together. But Dan commented as well (without any prompting or query from me) that the dress and the shoes look unintuitively good together, so don’t try to tell me otherwise because I am not listening. I am a WINNER. Albeit a bowlegged one.

I think the photo of the skirt material I showed in the last post about this dress gave the false impression that I was using a rather coarse herringbone tweed. That’s not the case, though that would have been a great look. No, this dress was meant to use up remnants, and the skirt is actually a rather heavy rayon suiting with a very fine herringbone weave.

Here it is with no Selfish Seamstress inside:

As you can see, I made a few small cosmetic changes. I omitted the bow at the waist (though now that I think about it, I don’t think it would have looked so silly as I thought. But I do like wearing this with a skinny belt and the bow would prohibit that.)

I had meant to do the little skinny bow tie around the collar, but then I realized I’m never ever going to wear this with the collar closed all the way (makes it look very much as though my head is just balanced atop the collar), so I had to skip the neck bow because it would have just been two untied strings hanging off of either side of the collar. I also changed the placement of the buttons accordingly. Here’s a close-up of the collar:

I realized later that I actually installed the top collar ruffle wrong side out, which just means that the less neat edge is showing. The fabric itself is the same on both sides. Oh well.

And here’s a glimpse at the inside- I did French seams wherever possible and skipped the lining. Instead I used self bias strips as armhole facings. You can see that I hand tacked them at the shoulder seam to keep them from flipping outwards when I wear it:

Anyway, that’s about it. No hard feelings, okay Burda? You can’t win them all. Especially not with moiré.

I was flipping through my big old McCall’s pattern catalogue from 1957 again, and was struck by the abundance of garments sewn with a white contrast collar. I, as you may know, adore a white contrast collar. And although I’m not a fashion expert, it seems to me that the white contrast collar has never really gone out of style.

That being said, there may be some incarnations of the white collar that you’re not so eager to revisit. Mmm, thank you Ali MacGraw and Simplicity for this excellent exercise in repurposing old placemats:

Needless to say, I prefer 1957’s take on the white collar to 1985’s. What struck me most was the variety of lovely and innovative uses of the white collar. Sure, there are the expected sailor collars and demure Peter Pan styles:

But it’s also used in so many other delightful ways:

The white collar is put to especially good use in portrait necklines and shawl collars:

After seeing this one, how could you not want a perfect sheath in yellow polka dot with a pristine, white, clavicle-displaying collar?

But my absolute favorite is the classic white on black with enough gumption to stand away from the body just a bit:

Incidentally, don’t you find it rather amazing that those two dresses are from the same pattern? Today’s patterns often show a more formal version and a more casual version, but these looks are just so completely different. Love it!

Have you employed a white contrast collar in any of your garments?  How so and what kind? Who wants to get started on a new dress with a gorgeous white collar right now??

Slow progress is being made on the BurdaStyle book coat– I managed to cut out all of the outer pieces yesterday and get started on assembling it. But as I mentioned previously, the fact that this feels like S.W.A.G. sewing rather than selfish sewing means I’m not particularly driven and am dragging my feet. (This, incidentally, is through no fault of the BurdaStyle folks who have been great, or the project, which is a fantastic opportunity. Rather it is the direct result of the Selfish Seamstress having a particular tendency towards whining and self pity, even when they are not appropriate to the situation.)

As is often the case when I get tied up in any sort of S.W.A.G.-ish sewing, I start fantasizing about all the stuff I would make were I not S.W.A.G.-bound. And this dress from Burda 12.2006 is my latest obsession:

I’m sure the first time I saw this dress, I had a serious WTF moment. It’s so over the top, it’s so tacky, it’s so ridiculous. Dare I say… ugly? Oh, the black moiré (when was the last time you saw someone wearing moiré in real life?? I’ll tell you the last time I saw that- it was on the gown of one of the parents in the party scene when I was in a production of the Nutcracker at the age of 10. I’m pretty sure I thought to myself, “Man, I can’t wait until I’m a grownup and can wear moiré too!”). Also, the iridescent purple bow, the high ruffled collar, contrast bib, and sleeveless bodice. All together, it’s the female equivalent of a Chippendale dancer costume, or perhaps the uniform of a cocktail waitress at a seedy casino in the 1980s. Who on earth would wear such a dress? Well, as it turns out, I am strongly suspecting that I would, which is why I went to some lengths recently to acquire the 12.2006 issue of Burda from German eBay. Just not quite like this.

I think tux styling is a bit like animal print, ruffles, or metallic leather. A hint of it can be elegant and ladylike. Push it a little further and it can be edgy and daring. But push it a little bit further over that very thin line and suddenly you’re splat in the middle of Tackyland, which is where I believe the moiré dress above resides. TOO TUX-Y. (Side note, wouldn’t Tackyland be the greatest amusement park ever?)

But look what you get when you strip down some of the bells and whistles and craziness, and stop trying to force it to be a lady tux, and instead just a pretty dress with some tux-inspired details:

Lots and lots of cute potential! Imagine it all in one color- maybe a lightweight brown sateen (sooo Zara) or a pale yellow lawn. Or navy with tiny white pin dots and white accents. Or the whole top in ecru with the waistband and skirt in black. Or plum batiste on top with businesslike gray wool for the skirt?

Myself, I’m thinking the whole dress in white poplin with the tie at the neck, buttons, and waistband in black, minus the bow at the waist. After all, I’m not a 10-year old in the Nutcracker anymore. Or a Chippendale dancer.

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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