WIW: wearable prototypes (long)

In computer development, one of the golden rules of prototyping is that you should plan to throw one away, because you will anyway.

Well. I hate wasted effort, let alone wasted fabric, so I've modified my planning. The ones I should otherwise throw away will get the ultimate sanity check. This means that all mistakes in the production process have to be put right and the end result needs to be wearable. The downside of this is that everything goes together in a way that supports design decisions rather than easy construction, so sewing these up can sometimes feel like a monumental effort.

The first item is a bomber jacket based on the one piece blouse I showed a few weeks ago. When I posted that one I didn’t show off its coolest feature: you can turn it upside down and wear it as a shrug. I worked the concept through on this garment, adding a vent in the back that converts into a draped collar. In principle it’s also reversible which means four looks for the price of one. The downside it that now I don’t know where to put the label.

I’ve used a piece of vintage fabric, cotton broadcloth with metallic studs. It was gifted to me quite some years ago by a friend who bet me at the time that I couldn’t get a bomber jacket out of two square meters. It’s taken me a while to figure it out but I reckon I won the wager. I managed to get a few shots in the evening sun to show off the sparkle, but if I make more of these they’ll probably be in sober tweed or glamorous silk and not trashy sequins.

The second is a draped tunic with bandage sleeves that close with thumb loops. This is not particularly short on material but I can claim close to zero waste. It’s good fun to wear and people seem to like it but it’s not terribly practical and I’m still looking the perfect fabric for it. It also needs bra loops because even with a pin it’s hard to wear without flashing a bit of strap.

For the picture I was inspired by all the talk about brooches last week to pin it up with a bizarre object my sister gave me. I have no idea who made this or what they were thinking of, but I find it strangely appealing. Nevertheless, British comedy fans will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it reminds me of that episode in the second series of Blackadder where Percy uses alchemy to create something green and goes on to make jewellery that looks like snot.

Both outfits feature the pants that were the starting point for my minimal waste pattern cutting project. I wanted to create a pair of trousers out of a meter of fabric that didn't look like pyjamas. After some trial and error and a lot of draping I dropped the crotch, moved the inseam to the front and curved the hem, which gives shape in the leg and volume in the seat. Not everyone’s cup of tea but I’ve found them very wearable and they’ve been in heavy rotation throughout the summer. Styled with my Trippen platforms, because I read somewhere that statement boots with cropped pants were A Thing this year.

So please tell me, what do you think? Does a convertible jacket appeal to you? Would you wear a bandage sleeve? Do these pants look cool or sloppy? Your critical comments and feedback on each of these garments is very much appreciated.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • replied 5 years ago

    Well, I'd like to try to contribute here as your work appeals to my technical/design/artistry/sewing background and mostly subverted side of myself :)  If that makes sense.

    I like the jacket - a lot. I wouldn't necessarily wear it both ways myself (but that's for body suitability for me) but the option is very cool.

    The pants are terrific and not sloppy at all. Quite like these.

    The top is also great - and I'd wear it, but not likely wrap around my thumbs. Again a personal thing - veering too much into artist/dancer territory, which I am not.  But the bandage concept is really sexy.  

  • shedev replied 5 years ago

    I like the jacket and top.

  • Meredith replied 5 years ago

    You can just pack it all up and mail it to me :) Like Lisa, I think the jacket's convertible feature is interesting, but would probably only wear it as a bomber. I like the wrap sleeves of the top got the possibility of adjusting sleeve lengths through wrapping as opposed to scrunching. pants and top also look good! Looking forward to seeing more of your work.

  • kellygirl replied 5 years ago

    I think these are terrific. I love the jacket best as a jacket and the option of wearing it as a shrug would be kind of cool over a dress. The color choice and fabrication is subdued but interesting. Very appealing, in fact. Love the texture of the bandage top and the neckline/length. It looks wearable and unique. I'm not 100% sure about the pants. The fit in the behind would be problematic in my house. I would want something a little sleeker. You have some fun designs!

  • Firecracker replied 5 years ago

    The jacket is amazing. (I was looking at it and thinking, Darn, when this goes to market, it will be way out of my price range!) I love things that can be worn in totally different ways like this. The back view of the upside down version gave me pause--I'm not sure whether I'd actually wear it like that. But I might, just because the front looks so cool with the dramatic collar, and you could wear the jacket that way to show off a top with an interesting back detail. Or wear it over a dress. Okay, I really want that jacket.

    I was admiring the pants the whole time I was looking at the pics, before I had read through to the part where you described them. Yes, I like those, too!

    The top is interesting, too. I really like the look of the bandage detail, and the ruched sides. I don't like things falling off my shoulders, personally, so if that can be fixed, it would be a contender for my new slash/couture wardrobe that I'm amassing in my head. I don't know that I'd want to wear the sleeves looped over my thumbs all the time. If there's an option for wearing another way, that would be great; could the bandage part just be looped over the wrist a couple of times (like a rubber band on a ponytail)?

    Oh, and you look fantastic in this outfit! Love the Trippen boots with the pants--great choice.

  • Elly replied 5 years ago

    That bomber is amazing-- so versatile yet so elegant. Very rare indeed.

  • missvee replied 5 years ago

    I love the jacket worn bomber style. The pleat and snap details at the back are really interesting. Worn upside down I'm not so sure - the front view is great but at the back it doesn't seem to lay well on the body.
    The top is beautiful and I hope you can find a way to make it more practical. Would it work with narrow strips serged together, maybe with gaps here and there?

  • Mary Beth (formerly LBD) replied 5 years ago

    Very interesting!   I would definitely wear a bandage sleeve - especially in a dance studio.

    In my dream world, a bandage top could be worn from the dance studio to the street.   It would be made of fibers that breathe and handle sweat well, and have some stretch.   Bonus points if the top could be convertible - where you start with lots of layers in warm-up, and could remove parts of the top as the class progressed.   It would be handy to be able to remove part or all of the sleeves, attach other sleeves in contrasting colors or designs (or even layer sleeves, like you layer leg warmers), or even change some of the bandages around the neckline to get a different look. Or more layers.

    I don't know if this is anything you're interested in developing, but your bandage top prototype put that thought into my head, and it would be a great niche market.   I would buy that convertible dance top.

  • annagybe replied 5 years ago

    Jacket is amazing, although I prefer it as a bomber especially with that invert pleat in the back. I like less flipped, probably because I'm a bit tired of that style collar.
    As to the purple top, I find those twisted tops fussy to wear for me. They bunch up all weird as I move.
    Props for BlackAdder reference, though I don't remember that particular episode.

  • Greyscale replied 5 years ago

    I like all of these! I'd wear the pants for sure, and the bomber is genius.

    What sort of fabric is the bandage top? I like the concept but I think I wouldn't wear the top myself - softer and clingier than I usually like my jersey tops. I think I'm in the minority on that though.

  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    Ahahaha! Percy! And now I have to go sing the Black Adder theme song...

    Ok, I love the upside down bomber! I love pieces like that ... two for the space of one! I say put the label on an inside seam.

    The pants... I'm not sure about how they're draping in back. It's hard for me to see in the pics, but it kinda looks like the cloth is bunched up straight across the seat...

    The tunic... To be honest, I don't feel the bandage sleeves show enough. It kinda looks like a plain tunic. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I see your line as a source for statement items, not ordinary basics.

  • Maneera replied 5 years ago

    I love the jacket. Just LOVE IT! It's so darn cool! I have a reversible jacket and the label is on the sleeve cuff.

    The tunic is very interesting. Very sexy. I absolutely love that piece!

  • Ryce replied 5 years ago

    These are all so unique and interesting - I am in awe of your talent and creativity.

    I would buy and wear that bomber in a heartbeat in a more basic fabric such as you suggest.  It is lovely, versatile and then the addition of the sustainability factor though the minimal use of materials - terrific!!

    I very much like the top as well.  Since you are engaged in market research, I will be honest and disclose that I personally wouldn't purchase it because my days of wearing thin knits are over.  But if I were younger and trimmer I would be all over it.

    Thanks so much for sharing your creations here!

  • Style Fan replied 5 years ago

    I like all the pieces.  You are very talented.  I would personally only wear the bomber jacket as a bomber jacket.  I tried on a Sarah Pacini sweater that could be worn different ways and I passed on it because it was too complicated for me.  I tend to like things to be simple.  But that is me.  I love baggy type pants.  Not sure if those ones would work on my body but they certainly look great on you. 
    I love the top.  Something I might wear to a concert. 

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    These are all beautiful and interesting, and you are your products' best model. Everyone will want to look as cool as you do in these clever designs. 

    I would buy a jacket like that for sure (if it suited me in person) and I love the concept. I like the pants and tunic as well and could be equally tempted by those. As for where to put the label on the jacket, how about a removable "dogtag" type label that is so cool to look at people might wear it as a pendant? 

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    I love the jacket with the back flip. A genius design that I bet will gain momentum, Liz. Well done! Go sell it and make some money. 

    The bandage top - as long as the sleeves are comfortable - is fabulous too. Good on an IT with a bust. Nice touch with the brooch. 

    I'll be a spanner and suggest other pants - and here's why. FWIW, I don't find them baggy enough to look fashionably intentional - nor are they sufficiently tailored to look polished. It's the back view and the crotch point that to my eye, needs adjustment. Also, in my experience, a stiff fabric tends to work better when you're after creating "avant-garde angles" on the crotch point and derriere. 

  • skylurker replied 5 years ago

    To honestly answer your questions, I would not wear a bandage sleeve or a convertible jacket. I'm a conventional dresser wearing straight dark blue jeans and v-neck sweaters.
    That said, the bomber and the bandage top both look like they belong to a modern punk closet. I can't see the modern punk wearing the pants though, from the back, they look like classic chinos that have stretched out.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Thanks ladies! As ever, I know I can depend on you for thoughtful, critical feedback. 

    I agree that the jacket is definitely worth pushing ahead with. The upside down feature is probably something for the more adventurous, but I've found the conversion useful in changeable weather. There's a reversible coat in the pipeline that converts into a wrap, which I'll show when it's more seasonally appropriate (it's a bit too warm just now, but you'll see it in another month or so!)

    The tunic is nice but needs work. Greyscale, Ryce, it's not as clingy as it might appear in the pictures. Being double layered it fits closely on the inside and loosely on the outside so it's very forgiving. But you're right, it stands or falls on the fabric and I've yet to find the ideal material.

    Rachylou, the bandage sleeve has been a bit of a talking point when it's been noticed, so I like to think of it as a stealth statement. It's quite comfortable but somewhat impractical because it unravels if you don't anchor the spiral with the thumb loops. I'd like to work on that. 

    LBD: that's a fantastic idea! I'm not a dancer so I hadn't thought of that. And I'm very interested in multiple uses so I'll definitely consider it.

    To be honest, I'm disappointed with how the pants look in the pictures. IRL they move quite well on the body, but I agree with Angie that I should try them in crisper fabric. But as my designer pal over at ByBrown reminded me, pants are notoriously difficult to get right. (Still, she gave them the thumbs-up, so they may yet work.)

    Firecracker: I might well sell patterns one way or another. I'm not resourced to make many of these and home couture is too close to my heart to ignore. I'm thinking of putting together little kits of curated materials (all fabrics, reversible zips, ribbing etc) so that all the shopping is done for you. Also thinking of a pattern manual. (BTW, thanks for the feedback on branding!)

    Suz: pendants eh? that would be very cool! 

    Thanks again everyone! You are all the very best sounding board :)

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    I am very impressed with the bomber jacket. I love the back view, the cut, even the sparkly material and I am not usually drawn to sparkly. Would I wear it the other way? Possibly, but not as often, and the selling point for me would be the bomber version.
    I also like the pants. I would absolutely wear those.
    The tunic would be too fussy for me as is - but I love it conceptually.
    The pin is wonderful too and I also find it strangely appealing. Some things just look like they are on a plane above very similar other things. I would say that about your bomber jacket too. Thanks for sharing - it is a pleasure!

  • Deborah replied 5 years ago

    I love clever clothing!  

    The jacket is cool.  I would wear it 'upside down' as a bomber is not generally flattering on me, but  worn the other way is awesome. I do like the detail at the back when worn as bomber.

    The tunic... yes I would wear the bandaged arms.  It's different, edgy but still has elegance. I would wear this in a heartbeat:)

    I like the pants a lot.  The shape and the length lends them to many styling options.

  • Helen11 replied 5 years ago

    I love the bomber, too. I do like the fabric here, but I can see other fabrics might be more conventionally appealing.
    The bandage sleeves are something I appreciate the detail of, a stealth statement, as you say. I wouldn't wear them, though. How do you manage washing your hands?
    (I do live with small people and dogs, though. Lots of hand washing here.)
    Your designs are so very clever. I love seeing them.

  • krishnidoux replied 5 years ago

    I am amazed at your talent. The bomber is very clever and unique. Fit is stunningly perfect. Both pieces compliment your overall style both in shape and color. Bomber's shrug feature is so unique. I personally love the idea of clothes that double into more shapes or purposes. This one is well done. Kudos to you!

  • temeculamom replied 5 years ago

    I don't know if I would be bold enough to wear it, but I love, love, love that bomber jacket in all its incarnations. You are so creative! I'm also a big fan of the fun details at the end of the sleeves on the purple shirt.

  • CocoLion replied 5 years ago

    I do think the jacket is beautiful and clever.  I might not buy it because it is a bomber style jacket, I keep wanting to want bombers but think they don't look good on me.  So I might not be a bomber customer.

    I love the tunic.  I love the boat neckline and the longer length.  I have a different body type from you.  I am widest at the top of my thighs and would be worried that the garment pulls there.  If you can make a garment that works both on rectangles on like yourself, and more pear-ish women like me, would be amazing.  I require length, so that the top ends below my widest point.  I am impressed that you would put in bra loops like on a traditional dress, to get around the wide neckline.  I love wide necklines, they look good on someone with a short neck even though the neckline is high.

    As for the arms of the top, I find thumb loops uncomfortable so not a fan.  However I love the bandage detail and if that could somehow become adjustable to work on various sized women it would be an amazing feature.  I am under 5'4" and most sleeves are too long but if the bandage feature could suit both shorter and taller women, I'd love that.

    I like the pants a lot.  But you have a rectangle body so that might bias me.  Would they work on the pear for example.  Again if you made a pant that looked good on a variety of heights and bodies, that would interest me.

    Perhaps of interest -- Instead of their usual transparency diagram Everlane had this fit story on one of its pants.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Just wanted to pop back to to this thread to thank you all once again for your very constructive criticism and comments on my prototypes. Clothes should be practical and fun to wear so it's really useful to get this feedback. 

    Helen11: you're right, washing hands is the deal breaker with this model.  The bandage detail is cute and sexy but it needs a fallback option to fly. Back to the drawing board!

    CocoLion: thanks for the Everlane link! Designing perfect pants for so many body shapes is quite an achievement. (Not only that, it's good to see transparency considerations taken seriously and that's a fascinating glimpse of the Chinese factory.)

    With regard to the body shape issue: I hear you! I have to admit I'm struggling with this slightly. After so many years of sewing for myself, I have a good idea of what works for me, but other people.... not so much. I read somewhere years ago that designers do have a tendency to design for themselves, particularly the women. I'm trying to stay as open as possible while I figure out what works!

  • lyn67 replied 5 years ago

    Wow, these are really cool! Not a pro, but think you1ll earn a good living selling your clothes! Gon on girl & my hat off!:-)

  • tulle replied 5 years ago

    The bomber is BRILLIANT--love the soft shape, love the vent, and would wear it like crazy (especially in that great studded fabric) though probably not as a shrug that often.  The pants look great on you, but I tend to avoid droopy-bottomed pants in general--don't like to draw attention to that part of my body.  The tunic (which I would love as a full-length dress) is beautiful, and the bandage wrapped sleeves appeal to me a lot--thumb loops & all.  You are doing great work.  Thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Beth Ann replied 5 years ago

    So clever and fab!  I wanted to say that I actually like the volume in the trousers.  I think it needs to maybe be "more," if possible with the 1 meter idea (which is fab from a sustainability point of view).  I suspect they wouldn't be as baggy on my bum (lol).

  • catgirl replied 5 years ago

    I would wear both of these, in different colors, in a heartbeat!  Convertible items are a sugar eye for me.  The sleeves and thumbholes are a huge draw too, but I would probably find the rest of the fit too clingy in the body.   I also love those SHOES.

    When can we order? :)

  • replied 5 years ago

    I've not read the other comments. I'll come back.

    I would wear the bomber jacket in another fabric. I like it in all the pics except 6, where the back really does look like you've got in on backwards. But I guess I would just wear it the other ways and be happy with the nice snap/pleat detail at the back.

    I would wear the bandage top, and would appreciate an eveningwear version of it. I don't think the thumbloops would be good for daytime.

    I would also wear the pants.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Una: thanks for that! Not yet sure exactly when and how this all gets off the blocks. Meanwhile I'll consider you one of my target customers. No obligation of course :)

    Smittie: got it on backwards? Why, that's the whole point! :D hehe.

    Seriously, thank you all for your honest and considered feedback. It's very, very helpful.

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