My weekend with Oscar de la Renta

“Mummy you’re standing on the table! You might fall!” (wide eyed 3 year old)

“Two more pins for luck?” (wife)

“I have done the pins for luck…!” (husband)

Six months ago, I had ordered 2 yards of metallic “moth” linen from Mood, by Oscar de la Renta. It had sat neatly folded begging to be made. Generally speaking I have had good experience with linen- the silk -like thin kind. I made a vintage reproduction pair of 30s wide legged pants and wore them, literally to pieces (they are on my to mend list). This linen was much thicker, probably a medium weight. In the Winter light of my studio-come-storage-room (think dining room with the most romantic ever chandelier… and lots of boxes, a room which my husband generously surrendered to my passion) the fabric seemed a little lack lustre. But I am strong believer in not “saving” fabrics indefinitely- they need to be made, to live a life. And the voice of this fabric seemed to be louder than the others.

Claire McCardell once said -and I cannot recall where I read this- the more you work with fabric, the better sense you have of how a given fabric will look and drape. My confidence has definitely improved when it comes to working with sheers like crepe de chine and fluttery rayons. I am addicted to my rolled hemming foot. Having selected an Oscar de la Renta Vogue pattern from 10-15 years ago (which also spoke to me last week on ebay), I set to work cutting and thread basting whilst darling Hubbie took the children out… on both days of the weekend! (yes, yes, I know the guy is a super star)!

The texture of this fabric is sure to lure anyone who is vaguely tactile, I couldn’t stop touching the swatches I made for the project. By Sunday night, I was over the scent of the linen and was wondering how many flecks of fraying linen and metallic thread I had ingested over a two day period. I must have vacuumed about 6 times (no joke). But the fabric seemed all the more golden and the options for wearing this box pleat skirt seemed to be multiplying. There was a moment of panic (possible wrong choice, who on earth looks good in a box pleat skirt…!? followed by a subsequent half hour of searching on pinterest)… But by the time I had reached the point of cutting the new hem and sewing on the seam binding, I was confident again… and quite convinced I needed to make a suitable top to wear with it for a posh outing. Maybe something romantic, but definitely something bold in colour and silky smooth in texture like a charmeuse or a crepe de chine. I like the idea of contrasting textures.

The irony is, despite having a dedicated room, I still like to sew where the rest of the family is- I can watch whats going on, be part of conversations, adjudicate over ipad squabbles… and I am sure when my girl is grown the memory will be that mummy danced on the table whilst daddy poked pins in her skirt.

(Pictures of said skirt will follow at a later date)!

My love love relationship with Mood Fabrics…. a life in swatches!

mood swatches

Okay, so most of the time it is love, love, love. But then occasionally, like on my most recent order I put in for 4.5 yards of USD$29.99 per yard fabric and received an email telling me if I didn’t get back to them in 24 hours, they would ship 3 yards in 4 pieces. No, no, no. I mean seriously for good money I don’t want chopped up Armani- I am making an investment piece (two piece suit)… uh… not a library bag.  (Has anyone out there made Vogue 1889, Givenchy from the 90s- attributed to  John Galliano? 

But almost every other time it is love, love, love. And my moment of horror in relation to the 3 yards in 4 pieces was quite unusual, generally Mood are very good.

Current favourite fabrics are almost all sold out, but I am linking them here anyway for others looking for  dressmaking inspiration.

  1. Carolina Herrera crepe de chine (silk) in black and white polka dots- I never tire of this kind of print, its always so fresh and fun and the fabric itself is just gorgeous to sew with. No problems using a rolled hemming foot but with the stretch in the fabric, go slow and still be careful. My first 2 yards are being made into a 90s style gathered front blouse for work or day wear, Vogue 2069 (Anne Klein II) sans shoulder pads; I am debating about using another 2.5 yards for Vogue 2157 (another pretty Givenchy design,  rumoured to be an Alexander McQueen design from his time with the house;
  2. Donna Karan black double knit– its the make up of this gorgeous double knit that I think makes it so wonderful to sew and wear. I made it up in some Donna Karan tapered pants (Vogue 1440) I ended up making a second pair the first pair was in such high circulation in my wardrobe) and at least a year later and many washes (on delicate, flat dried) and there is no nasty pilling, still look fabulous. For anyone who has Vogue 1440 I did make the shirt in a no name stretch poplin from Mood also and I can see why so many on the internet love it;
  3. Caroline Herrera silk faille in deep red. Another high end one, but goodness gracious great balls of fire- I fell in love with the colour on the swatch, (did not expect that to happen) and it was a had to have- would be absolutely gorgeous with a style with less gathers and more pleats and I am currently throwing around ideas on which Vogue Oscar de la Renta pattern to use- there is one from the 90s that looks particularly fetching that I have seen in runway snaps from the 90s, however it does use 4 yards of fabric and other fabric options on the back of the envelope include denim ( a much cheaper alternative). I did run the swatch through my machine to get a sense of how it would sew and react to pleats etc and I really think with the right design this fabric is 5 stars. For anyone who doesn’t like red, there is also a yellow, green and grey- the yellow is similar to the dress worn by Amal Clooney to the Royal Wedding and is a bit more “day” than night. Simplicity 1873 by Cynthia Rowley might be a good option with the pleated skirt.
  4. A black viscose matte jersey by Donna Karan– if it ever returns, this is another winner and I made it into Vogue 8379, another adored pattern of the sewing blogging world AND a Diane Von Furstenberg skirt from a 70s Vogue pattern 1680 with quite an average cover- made it in an hour and also in high circulation in my wardrobe- a great basic if you want a fast and easy knit skirt pattern.

There are other fabrics I have bought from Mood- a red Ralph Lauren double knit (sadly no longer available) that was very nice made up as the skirt from Vogue 1451 by Karan – promise that was actually a fast make; a Ralph Lauren matte jersey which was quite nice but very heavy for the very full, floor length skirt of a 70s Vogue Pucci dress (so heavy that I confess I have yet to attach the skirt to the bodice – it was so heavy and felt like wrestle-mania at my sewing machine).

Anyway, I would love to hear how others manage/ display/ store their fabric swatches from Mood or elsewhere. At the moment I use a photo album but I usually also keep a scrap with every pattern I make. It is always a delight when I discover other seamstresses did the same when I buy vintage patterns. What do you do?

Happy sewing!

delarenta pattern