Dressmaker's Diary: Summer Sewing with Elisalex
This month, Elisalex takes us through her summer sewing and how you can start dressing for both comfort and joy
As I write this column, I’m sore from my first trip back to the gym in months, and still blissfully sated from my first meal at a restaurant since the beginning of December. The sun is shining and I feel like a butterfly slowly emerging from my lockdown cocoon. Things in the UK are finally starting to feel normal again. But in the wake of such a major global trauma, things will never ‘go back’ to normal. There is never any going back, and I think that’s a great thing. We move forward, we learn and grow, and we create a new normal in response to our ever-changing surroundings. I have learned so much about myself over the past year, and there are many lessons I will be carrying with me into the weeks, months and years to come. Some things have changed without me even trying or realising (or wanting!), and some things about my life I have chosen to change in order to shape the future I want for myself and my son. I won’t get too profound here, don’t worry! Instead of going off on one about how I quit booze and why Transcendental Meditation has changed my life (although if you’re curious about either, my DM’s on Instagram are open for you), instead I’m going to talk about something way more fun and frivolous, but by no means less important, and that’s my summer sewing plans, and how a year of Covid-19 has got me craving a me-made wardrobe of extreme comfort and pure joy over all else.
When you look back over the history of fashion, a pattern becomes quite clear: times of political/societal unrest inspire a leap of creativity. Just look at the Psychedelia and Flower Power trends of the late 1960s, slap bang in the middle of the Vietnam War. Or the 1920s just after WW1 when Coco Chanel led a revolution of looser silhouettes and shorter hemlines- a dramatic departure from the restrictive corseted and ‘modest’ attire acceptable for women in the Edwardian era. It’s as if artists and designers harness their talents as an outlet to escape the stress/trauma/uncertainty of what’s going on around them and create a more hopeful and joyful narrative.
And so, it makes complete sense that the last few years of both political instability and natural disaster has seen an explosion of colour, texture, print, ruffles and volume in fashion. And I am here for it! If anything, this is the aesthetic direction that my brain is always seeking anyway, so for a while now I have really been enjoying lots of what mainstream fashion has to offer, and feeling my own creative juices at their peak.
For me, it’s all about volume, frills, lots of interesting details in one garment
There are so many ways to approach dressing for extreme comfort and pure joy, and it’s really down to what elicits those feelings in you. For me, it’s all about volume, frills, lots of interesting details all in one garment - like gathers and tucks and embellishments and ties, and experimental print and texture clashes. I want maxi dresses, crazy sleeves, all the ruffles, and metres and metres of luxurious fabric to waft around in!
The patterns ticking my boxes
The Coeli blouse by Pauline Alice has it all - tucks and gathers, big sleeve energy and all the frothy volume I could dream of in a blouse. I’ve already made one in a Liberty lawn from Queen Of Fabrics, and I already have plans for another, lengthened into a babydoll-style mini dress. Yum!
Our Leo dungarees are the epitome of extreme comfort, with a healthy dash of the ridiculous! I love clothes that feel frivolous, that don’t take themselves seriously, and that even make me giggle a little when I look at myself in the mirror. This pattern does exactly that, and let me tell you that the Leo is just as much of a joy to sew as she is to wear!
A great way to test out a slightly more OTT look if you’re still on the fence is simply by adding a gathered frill to the hem of a basic dress. I love how something as simple, comfortable and versatile as our Hannah wrap dress is totally transformed with a gathered frill tier added to the skirt. It suddenly becomes this dramatic gown, rich in luxury and opulence. You’ll be swishing and swanning around in no time, I promise!
If you like the folklore look (which I love), another great pattern for mixing and matching fabrics, and even adding your own embellishments in the form of embroidery is the new March top and dress by Helen’s Closet. My plan is to treat myself to a selection of Liberty florals and mix them all up in a Little House on the Prairie style maxi March dress perfect for summer days and nights - secretpyjamas!
And what about what we have in store for you at BHL? Well, as I said before, I feel like my creativity is at an all-time high these days, and I’m doing my best to churn out as many patterns as we physically can while they’re hot in my head! We have some serious party dresses coming your way, fabulous blouses that double up as dresses with pretty details and interesting quirks, as well as some updates to older patterns, and much, much more.
Elisalex de Castro Peake is the designer behind much-loved indie sewing pattern company By Hand London. She writes a monthly column for Love Sewing magazine, which is where this article was originally published. She is our Designer of the Month for August 2021 here on CraftWorld.