This jacket...UPDATE with picture

I went quiet again. A story was unfolding, some new developments kept me offline and life took an interesting turn. I’ll come to that, but first, let me tell you about this jacket.

Back in spring I posted a few different shots of a few different outfits, which may or may not have looked strangely similar in style and proportion. This is because they’re actually all the same garment, a jacket made from a pile of remnants of double sided technical denim, kindly donated by my wonderful friend Mel over at ByBrown. The writing had been going pretty well but I’d reached a point where I needed to step back, do some more research and let everything incubate for a while. I decided it was time to revisit some of the designs I was working on last year.

A word about the fabric, which is wonderful to work with. It’s crisper than cotton denim, robust and very wearable. Mel’s made some lovely pieces with both sides (including my trusty crash pants) but I thought she missed a trick for not producing any reversible garments. The challenge, though, is that each side is very different in character. The “right” side is a deep matt indigo, almost purple, and the “wrong” side is best described as silver. A reversible design needs to show the best of both worlds.

I wanted to use the resilience of the fabric to create something that would wear like armour plating. With this in mind, I cut a separate shoulder section which reverses at the neckline, partially lined the “wrong” side in black and added elastic at the hem and cuffs. The sleeve section can then be worn over or under the armhole, or even around the neck as a collar. One jacket, too many ways to count.

So I was out and about in this versatile number when I happened into a particular high-end bicycle equipment shop, like you do on a Saturday afternoon, where I happened to be served by a young man who was kind enough to pay it a compliment. Thanks, I said, I made it myself. Really? He’s made clothes too, in fact he’d trained at an English coat maker. We chatted for a few minutes about seam bindings and sewing machines and went our separate ways.

At this point, I’d more or less given up on any prospect of ever turning this into a viable business, but our conversation left me thinking. I went back to the shop a couple of weeks later and asked him if he’d mind meeting for a coffee and talking production. Sure, he said.

We had our first real conversation a couple of days before my last post here. Today I’m packing up my office in downtown Amsterdam and moving into a factory space close to the river with my sewing machines and my new business partner. The guy I met randomly in the bike shop, who said something nice about my jacket, turned out be a fashion graduate, a craftsman with some serious chops who’d come to Amsterdam from the UK because he wanted to make something too. And that, good people of YLF, is why you haven’t heard from me in a month.

UPDATE!! And I've landed. Packing went without a hitch at the weekend, almost everything has been moved and it's not even lunch time. As you can see, I've traded the balcony for a solid factory floor and a workspace in full daylight with bonus miniature mural. Now the fun starts!


Go to the full post to see all of the pictures →


A compendium of YLFabness

We’ve just had a long and very fruitful discussion about the pressing and divisive problem of the oversized silhouette. During this debate, we agreed on the importance of personal authenticity, lamented poor design in bigger garments, speculated on the possibility of “silent clothing”, exposed some cultural prejudices surrounding a looser fit and examined our conflicted feelings about putting ourselves on display. All in all, a far reaching philosophical exploration which went above and beyond the original remit.

I went back to it yesterday with the intention of picking up a few bon mots for posterity, but there's far too much hive mind fabness to stop there. This might be the most interesting online conversation I've ever had the pleasure of joining, let alone the honour of starting.

The thread itself is well worth reading all the way through and my compilation is just  the tip of the iceberg. For anyone who hasn’t already seen it, or has too much of a life to wade through 80+ comments, here are some highlights.

YLF, thank you once again for your extraordinary wisdom. Best of the web.


Approprio: Maybe I don’t look as conventionally beautiful in these outfits, but I can see very clearly who I am.

Angie (on the second rule of YLF): We celebrate ALL forms of fashion and style on YLF, and it is my wish that everyone is open to styles that work for different people at different points in their lives. They may not like a certain look - sometimes people just can't help what they don't like - but I DO want us to be as open minded as possible, and keep poison eye to an absolute minimum. That's one of the most important things to learn on YLF, and people like you help me teach that.

(first rule being “HAVE FUN WITH FASHION!!!”)

lisap: “The moment anyone feels that justification of choice and expression is necessary, is when the rest of (us) lose insight into a world much bigger than our own. “

Skylurker: “I have a problem with conceptual fashion and fashion as art : I don't want my body to be used to hang art and concept on, like you'd hang pictures on a wall. I don't want such an intimate relationship with a designer….. YSL, my fashion Master, wrote that good clothes, like good health, are silent. I've always been fascinated by the idea of silent clothes, that won't communicate anything to the world about you, nothing about your social context, your ideas, your personality.

Suz: “I can't even begin to understand what silent clothes would be, except perhaps in a country where everyone wore essentially the same thing, like early communist China.”

Skylurker: “IMO, he means the opposite: a bespoke garment is so individual, not because it's an original design, but because it's made to your measures, that it becomes your own, perfectly adapted to your fit and needs, functional garment.”

YSL: "On a coutume de parler du silence de la santé, du merveilleux silence de la santé. De même devrait-on parler du merveilleux silence du vêtement, de ce moment de grâce où le corps et ce qu'il porte ne sont plus qu'un, où cette union, toute spirituelle, se résume en un mot, l'élégance. Car, d'une certaine manière, celui que ses vêtements entravent, celui qui ne vit pas en accord avec eux, celui-là est un être malade."

lisap: “the ideal garment doesn't define the wearer ; rather she defines it”

Angie:  “so called silent clothes speak volumes too - although they might not be the messages that we want to send.”

Vix: “I often have a little ongoing internal discussion around privilege, the Male Gaze, conventional standards of dress, and what I kind of lump under the "Go-Goddess" stuff (celebrate your unique beauty, highlight your femininity, etc). [It really helps when all one's current inner voices have opposing viewpoints....]

Caro in Oz: “many people thought Tilda Swinton looked "better" in Trainwreck than she does irl. I have trouble getting my head round this - she'd lost her individuality - the very thing that makes her Tilda”

Una: “Here in Vegas I am an oversized sack dress in a sea of short bodycon dresses. I am glad those women feel happy and confident in their tight dresses, and I feel perfectly at home in my own loose shifts.”

Aliona: “ Experiments in oversizing last year saw me getting caught up in my baggy trousers and falling down a flight of concrete stairs and catching the sleeve of an oversize jacket on a steaming hot mug of coffee.”

Irina: “Truth to be told, it is just not my personality and my environment. I realized that it's not the physical limitations but my mind set prevents me from wearing it.”

Diana: “More than most other styles I think this one depends SO much upon perfect fit, tailoring, and attention to detail. You can't just go into a store and expect to walk out looking like the mannequin. It's maybe a little counterintuitive because the styles are not designed to hug the body, hence you might expect that they would more easily fit. But they DO still depend on the "bones" underneath, so to speak. They have to hang off the body just so and you have to rely on not only perfect tailoring but also a really strong understanding of fabric composition, drape, etc.

Deborah (undisputed owner of this aesthetic): “The attitude of designers (referring to Caro's "fat lady" clothing) can appear to be one of let's hide/cover women, whereas beautifully designed and constructed non conventional looks IMHO can enhance and flatter.”

Suz: “how I feel is always and forever shaped by my environment and enculturation -- which in my case included some fairly aggressive lessons in "how to be a girl in consumer society." I can't escape those messages completely, not at my age. And not in my income bracket. (The two are not irrelevant. If I were younger -- like my daughter -- I could probably find a place for myself a little easier as an outlier. And if I could afford bespoke perhaps I could afford to speak louder than my clothes which would, nevertheless, inevitably speak volumes). But as things are, at least I can interrogate myself, continually question what is really right for me -- and meanwhile keep an open mind and an unpoisoned eye about others and how they choose to present themselves.”

Rabbit: “Like any other art form I think fashion is highly context driven, and meaning comes out of process, but also the intended audience being communicated with. I think we all have different intended audiences (a traditional potter and a conceptual sculptor might both make things out of clay, but the markets for their work are very different.)”

Style Fan: ”I am interested in fashion and gender roles. Why do women have to look a certain way? Why is there an ideal look? I think about this a lot. It is a part of my work. I worked with adolescents who had eating disorders for many years.”

Kiwigal/Sally: “ I love to see people comfortable, confident and authentic in their clothes, and their identity, and their appearance, whatever their age or shape or location.”

Sally: “I will admit that i swayed by what is conventionally attractive when dressing myself because it's been beaten into me. I remember at 16 cutting my hair really short and my father saying "that looks awful. You don't look feminine" and my sister wearing a jumpsuit and another family member commenting that "it really did nothing for her figure. " I'm fighting my own upbringing and society..probably why I've gone back running to at least get a strong body instead of worrying about how it looks in clothes all the time. “

Shevia: “the ultimate power grab is to dress where our clothes integrate seamlessly (;)) with our identity and thus become invisible as things in themselves empowering the designer/blogger/retailer/business interest that would like to control them and instead become part of we the wearer. “ (best moment in the thread!)

Rachylou: “ I have had a thought about being an 'older woman' and invisibility. I feel that as I've gotten older I'm less visible for my cuteness and more visible for my command. And in some ways, this is simply less of a thrill...but I really don't want to be bothered by the attentions of others to my cuteness.”

Bettycrocker: “You should never apologize for your style. It's what makes you you. Each of us has to figure out what works best for us based on our lifestyles, careers, body type and personality. In the end, you need to feel great in what you wear. It really is an emotional thing.”

Rabbit: “I was pondering heels, because I've been wearing more high heeled boots. On the one hand there is an element of artificiality/traditional feminine sexual ideals/slightly hindered movement (harder to sprint across a parking lot and avoid a rain shower), on the other, I'm suddenly taller and since I'm fairly tall to begin with find myself seeing over the heads of other women in a crowd and looking straight into (or down into) the eyes of men when I talk to them, and there is a strange power in having that viewpoint.”

Smittie: “I wish I lived in a more fashion-forward city where I wouldn't stand out so much for wearing something a little different.”

Gaylene: “Why the resistance--the " well, it's great for you, but I couldn't" reaction. Is it that radical or subversive to downplay and, gasp, even hide, our female attributes from the gaze of others? Might it make it hard for someone to figure out how to interact with me if my age, shape, and gender wasn't easily discernible? Would strangers have to learn more before they could figure how to stereotype me?”

Beth Ann: “Sometimes, when someone responds unfavorably to something I've worn, I remind myself that they may be just learning how to engage honestly in an active thread, and may not always get the balance right -- and I also know that someone will tell me they don't like something only when they think they've come to "know" me a bit.”

Janet: “ I want liberation and equality but not through total androgyny -- that would not feel like me, even though I do like a certain amount of it in my style. I don't want to feel like I have to wear something so completely covered to assert my personal -- and decidedly female -- power. …. The looks with very voluminous and layered skirts frankly put me in mind of days gone by when women were *required* to hide their legs -- only the ankles were visible, and the styles looked more cumbersome than easy to me. “

La Pedestrienne: “It strikes me that in extremely conservative cultures heavily layered, voluminous clothing is seen as a way of controlling bodies and sexuality. There are still parts of the world where revealing skin or form is a revolutionary act. Yet, to our western eyes, it's oversized looks that have become a type of resistance and/or rebellion against norms. It's all situational, isn't it?”

Gaylene: “I think it's rather fascinating how we, in North America, are so inclined towards seeing layered, voluminous clothing as a way of controlling female bodies and sexuality. I've been wired to think revealing my body is a statement of my free will and feminine power--a sign that I can't be coerced or controlled by those who would want to restrict my choices and ambitions. And, yet, when I think of the constant dieting, exercising, maintenance, and self-loathing we North American women put ourselves through in order to "look good in our clothes", I wonder If I'm not fooling myself. Is all this effort actually for ME--or for those who have convinced me I need to attract approving gazes from strangers who find it appealing to see a female shape on display?”

Rabbit: “I think that the opposite end of the spectrum - body baring or body con gets as much potential push back if not more than oversized/body obscuring -- and that touches on underlying issues from Puritanical/new England historical attitudes towards modesty in dress, social and economic class assumptions, more recent patterns of immigration, as well as the Pandora's box of feelings about open expressions of sexuality or baring skin (in the US), plus location specific norms -- Vegas baby :).

Rachylou: “I remember someone telling me it was actually illegal to wear a mask, cover your face, with the exception of Halloween. And when I walk down residential streets, sometimes I'm amazed how you can look in everyone's windows. Other places, every house is walled off. I wonder not a little if there are parallels with clothing: Western society drives toward openness and transparency. And sometimes maybe the drive is random and indiscriminate.”

Shevia: “ I absolutely agree that there is a Western or at least American association with obesity and muumuu dressing and that plays into our first reaction to oversized silhouettes. And also agree that the emphasis on body con, or body show, somehow relates with keeping women obsessed with the size and shape of their bodies.”


Three birds

I had a light-bulb moment about style personae, and how they relate to my life, my interests and my general character. In very simple terms, it breaks down into three, which I named the parrot, the magpie and the crow. 

The parrot is outgoing and confident and looks good in a blazer.
The magpie is creative and curious and kind of arty-retro-boho. 
The crow is a shy and serious nerd who overthinks everything. She's an avant garde minimalist.

Each of these characters find expression in my style. Sometimes they work together, sometimes they don't. 

I began writing a reflection on this little trio which I'd intended to post here, but over the course of a couple of evenings it turned into something else entirely so I put it on my blog instead:

(I don't know what to call it. Is it an allegory? A fable? It's definitely some sort of shaggy dog story. You don't have to read it. I should send it to my shrink. She'll have a field day.)

Anyway, I was wondering if there are any other similarly split personalities out there, and how they express themselves. How do your style personae correspond to aspects of your personality?


Ask Angie et al: tips for packing for and shopping in Japan?

If you're wondering why I've been relatively active here while I'm supposed to be very busy, it's because I'm all demob happy. As of next Friday, Mr Edge and I are off to Japan for three weeks. It's been ages since we've had a really good, long vacation together and we're both beyond excited!

This isn't just a holiday, it's a field trip. I'm a huge fan of Japanese style and I'm a little overwhelmed at the prospect of travelling and shopping in my idea of fashion nirvana, birthplace of the holy trinity of Yamamoto, Kawakubo and Miyake. I'd love to hear from anyone familiar with the region as to what I should be packing, and once there, where I should be going! 

With regard to dressing, I've already abandoned any and all hope of competing with stylish locals, but I'd like at least to be prepared for every occasion. My travel capsule needs to cover the range of activities from rural hiking to city walking to more formal outings such as dining out and possible theatre visits, with the added complication of transitional weather. 

So my first question is: should I pack a few dressy options to compliment my basic urban tourist's wardrobe? Will I feel underdressed in polite company in smart-casual garb? Should I make space in the luggage for one or two wildcards or travel as light as possible, leaving room for all-important shopping?

Speaking of which, I need some shopping tips! Angie, as an expert shopper the world over and a seasoned traveller in the region, I'd love to know what retail experiences you think should not be missed! 


Name my atelier!

So I posted a while back on my plans to start my own atelier. These are progressing, mainly in the direction of business planning and logistics, the details of which are far too boring to post here. 

However... I'd love to canvas your opinion on a brand identity. This is obviously a very important decision and I want to get it right. 

I'm considering the low budget option. I'd rather put my money into equipment and materials than expensive name tags, so it's all about making the value option look classy. This means going for a great name on a very standard label design. I've posted a couple of mock-ups from the supplier's website.

I want the name of the brand to communicate something specific about the design philosophy, which is essentially about doing as little as possible to the fabric. Less material, fewer cuts, meticulous construction. I have a couple of names in mind:

seemless: Probably the stronger of the two. I like that the alternative spelling means something slightly naughty. Then again, there are these guys. Absolutely not where I want to be! 

slash&couture: Less obvious but an accurate description of the construction process. I like the wordplay and the ampersand. 

I like both and I could happily fly with either of them. Which do you prefer? Or should I go back to the drawing board?

Vote Yay for seemless
Vote Nay for slash&couture

Thanks all!


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New directions (long!)


That scared you didn't it? I bet you thought I'd disappeared forever, but no such luck :)

In my last post, which seems like ages ago now, I mentioned that I've been offline while coming to terms with some life changes. But it's all good. The bigger picture is that I've been dealing with depression and burnout for the last year, and to cut a long story short I've lately made a breakthrough in my progress to recovery. 

As a result, I've decided to make a major change in the direction of my design practice. For the time being, I'm shelving digital design to focus on clothing. Regulars will know I've been a keen hobby sewist all my life, and by now I'm confident enough in my skills and knowhow to turn pro. I have experience in setting up and running a business to build on, so why not take the plunge? 

We only go around once, and I want to work on that one thing I'm passionate about, the thing that I think I do best. I've wanted to try this for many years but never found a business focus I was comfortable with. Lately, though, I've been developing some cutting techniques that minimise material waste and labour costs, and it's taking me in a whole new design direction.

The idea is to create beautiful, wearable, downright covetable clothing from small pieces of the best offcuts I can source. I've been building up a stock of fine materials in the kind of quantities that would be hard to make into anything using standard cutting systems, but can be optimised with this method. For the technically minded, it's a departure from the standard Western blocks that takes its inspiration from a one-piece construction I learned years ago from a certain Japanese designer.

And now I humbly present one of my first wearable prototypes, a cropped white shirt made from a metre of fabric 150cm wide. It's cut in one piece, with two seams on either side and one down the back. I'm currently developing the concept into a basic jacket pattern and working on a couple of menswear blocks as well. I have a pants design I can cut from a metre and they don't look half bad, though I say so myself. And a few more garments in the pipeline.

As you can imagine, I've been extremely busy with this lately and I expect to stay busy for a while to come. But I'm a huge fan of this wonderful community and I want to be a part of it. I feel very lucky to have met Angie, Greg, Inge and all the others this year. Your wisdom and feedback are invaluable to me and I hope to continue to grow and learn with you. I'm going to try to post every month or so, and hopefully look in for a chat once in a while too. 

So thanks, Fabulous, for welcoming me into the community and for reading this far. The sharp-eyed will no doubt notice that I finally found a fantastic pair of specs. Not quite such a radical change, but another step in a new direction. And I am in desperate need of a haircut, but who has time for that?


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Got ink? ETA Got Ink!

I'm on my way out to make an appointment for my first ever tattoo. I've been thinking about it for months, and I've decided to finally take the plunge. 

It's in memory of a dear friend who passed away six months ago. We'd known each other since age 11 at school, and we'd been friends all our lives. She'd been diagnosed with cancer five years before she died, and she made those last years count. Yesterday would have been her 46th birthday. I miss her terribly.

She left me a leaving gift, a snowflake charm in memory of a boozy, snowy weekend we spent together in Warsaw. It was the best. 

I want to put the snowflake somewhere I won't loose it. I'm going to get it inked on the inside of my right arm, just above the elbow, so I can show it off or conceal it as I want to. I'm putting it here so that there's something online to show the shop when I go to make the arrangements. And of course, to find out your experiences.

Do you have ink? Is there a story behind it? Do you love it or do you regret it? Any pictures?

ETA: I DID IT! I'm now a tattooed lady, but don't you dare call me Lydia!

Props are due to the lovely Joey De Boer, a gentleman who understands the significance of personal style and worked with me to get the design just how I wanted it. 

And for anyone who cares to read it, I wrote about it on my blog (with a few mildly NSFW images).



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