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2014 seemed to be the year of Superhero parties.  I was turning 33 last year, and decided I would host a party, with a superhero theme.  I had decided this some time before a friend of ours announced a hero and villain party.

Given my pre-planning obsession, I had also already selected a suitably random superhero for my own birthday party, so this required some further thinking on my part to find a second (super)hero to dress as to attend the friend’s party, which of course, preceded mine (meaning I couldn’t go as the same character)!

Invisible Woman

For my own party I had chosen The Blonde Phantom.  A 1940s heroin, she was little known, but had a great costume (without the skank-quality of some of the later heroines), as well as being a clever woman.  Technically she didn’t have any superpowers, but she had a little mask, and carried a hand gun.

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So, for our friend’s party (which was early winter) I chose to go as Invisible Woman – one has to consider the weather when planning these sorts of things (nothing I hate more than being cold).

There appeared to be a few iterations of her costume throughout the years, but the key components seemed to be: blue fitted suit, black boots, black gloves, black waistband and collar, and of course the number 4 on the chest.

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And of course, being a sew-er..  I had to make my own costumes.

Given the wintery nature of this outfit, I wanted to go for a Ponti knit, but couldn’t get the right shade of blue.  Instead I settled for a scuba fabric, which had the right sort of look, however I discovered (a little too late) it wasn’t quite as stretchy as I had hoped.

The basic format of the pattern was to make leggings, a fitted top and then sew them together.   The leggings had to be remade, as I had used a pattern of other leggings I owned, but then discovered the scuba fabric wasn’t as stretchy… and I couldn’t get into the leggings.. so they got re-cut as my sleeves.

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The Number 4 I did in felt and appliqued onto the upper front.  Invisible zip up the middle front, and a black jersey fabric upright collar.

I had to make a few amendments to the back of the leggings as well (did not think out that pattern very well before cutting it) – and used a wide black elastic as the waistband.  The black gloves I already had (from a 1920s outfit!) and the black boots are my enormous Tony Bianco black suede heels…

My husband also got a costume – we chose Silver Surfer for him, and whipped him up some supertight leggings in silver 😉

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Blonde Phantom

Meanwhile, I had to start planning my own birthday party costume.   I gathered pictures of the Blonde Phantom so I could get the design of the costume right.  The key components were the red, flowing skirt; the exposed midriff; the sweetheart neckline, and the little sun details at the corners (and of course the black face mask).

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Getting into the theme, I sent out the party invites, dressing myself as my character for them (as an obscure superhero, I felt I wasn’t really giving anything away by letting people know what I was going to wear..   (If anyone else would like me to illustrate them as a comic strip, please let me know).

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And then it was time for the fabric choice.  As a generally natural fabric gal, I had never *ever* used Spandex before, in my entire sewing history – never purchased, never sewn, never touched.  The nature of this costume though.. seemed I had no other choice.

But, gosh, was it easy to work with!! Red spandex for the entire dress – no darts needed, no gathering, no zig-zagging.. why have I never used this before!?  I also got yellow and white spandex to do the detailing, so the whole dress would move and stretch as one.

I interfaced the little suns, and straight stitched them on (appliqueing those warped the fabric something shocking).

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The bodice was double lined at the front to ensure clean lines and no funny hems at the mid-riff cutout and sweetheart neck line.

I purchased a little black mask and cut it down to size… and of course made a cake to match the colour and comic theme…

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And the last but not least touch, I purchased me some black LimeCrime lipstick… divine… not ever having been a goth, there was something really lovely about wearing black lipstick (matt black) and I wish I had an excuse to wear it more often!!

Oh, and the little gun.. that went ‘Bang’ when you fired it.  My hubby went as the Hulk – much easier costume then the Silver Surfer – this time I just dyed his old pair of jeans purple and ripped off the bottoms!!

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Last year, or perhaps the year before.. my friend and I went to the Alannah Hill Outlet, where the lovely people of Alannah Hill sell off rolls fabric that they are no longer using, and remants (I really should go back there again!).  I picked up this remnant gorgeous creamy, slightly stretchy, floral print – thinking that it would make a really nice blouse.

Much time passed before I was finally both inspired and confident to cut the fabric into a blouse.  I really wanted to make a long sleeved blouse – and there was not quite enough fabric.. so I cut out the main pieces, and had to cobble together the back yoke by sewing the offcuts back into a useable piece of fabric!

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I also didn’t have enough fabric for collar or cuffs… I really wanted contrasting details – and was hoping to be able to get fabric that was the dark green-teal colour that some of the floral pattern had.  Unfortunately, no fabric store had that colour.  I also wanted to have silk satin cuffs, and matching silk organza collar tie.  I tried a an orange.. didn’t work, and I didn’t want pink.. so I ended up settling for the dark blue you see here.  I was really please with the end result, it picked out a nice highlight in the blouse colours.

The cuffs I spent a bit of time on – I’m really starting to dislike regular button holes.. so for the cuffs I used bound buttonholes instead, which produced a much lovelier outcome.  The blouse has an invisble zip up the centre.

Okay! So, when my husband’s expensive, fine wool suit work pants wore away to a form a massive hole in areas where there should not be holes.. I thought ‘90% of this fabric is in perfect condition, what a waste it would be throw the pants out’.

So I got thinking about what could be done with the suit pants material.  I unstitched both legs so I ended up with two sizeable pieces of fabric.  I salvaged the silk, paisley waistband lining, all the buttons.  Placing the two legs upside down on my dressmakers form, I realised that if cut the legs cleverly I would have enough fabric to make a pinafore.

Using a rough pattern of another dress, I cut two upper bodice yokes – front and back to get the neckline.  This was taken from the hip area of the pants where the fabric was broad enough to fit a pattern piece, and added details of pockets that give an indication of what the fabric used to be.

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Looking at the photos, I can see I really need to iron the dress – so apologies!  However, once I had laid out the pants as the dress form, I added diagonal darts (took that idea from the 1960s vintage pattern).   I cut the dress reasonably short, given that the fabric is quite conservative.  Sewed it all up, lined the yoke.. and then put together a little belt from the salvaged waistline fabric.   Voila! A pinafore from hubby’s old pants.   (There is another pair of pants waiting in my sewing room to be converted into something… maybe a bodice..)

PS.  The dress is super easy to wear, and breathable – they do make these suits out of lovely fabric!

So, among my Vintage pattern scoop, I also got hold of this 1974 “Style 4409” pattern.  Perfect for knit fabrics, I found some discount knit fabric at Spotlight (I think it was reduced to $2/m or something equally ridiculous!) – and decided to give it a go.

The sizings are always a little bit pot-luck with the old patterns – so i had to trim it down quite a lot by the end, and as a result the neck was a little cosy.  But, again, this dress is super comfortable – the stretch fabric fits really well, and I will be making another dress with this pattern, in other fabrics for the summer – possibly a dress without the sleeves; and I might just need to make a winter version with long sleeves too!

Style pattern 1974I cut two pieces for the centre front on this pattern, so I could have fabric pattern on the diagonal in the upper bodice.

10 years ago, I would have owned around 6 pairs of shoes – all flats – and used to walk around university primarily in my Redbacks.    Today I own close to 40 pairs of shoes (give or take) – and still own my Redbacks (but only wear them on site.)  My first pair of heels were purchased for me for my Yr 12 formal.  The heel was around 3cm high, and they were the only pair of heels I owned for a good many years (see below).   I sold them on ebay two years ago.

I think (struggling to recall) that the first pair of heels I really bought for *myself *was in the year of many 21st brithdays.  They were silver, solid heel (maybe 5-6cm high) and tied around and around up my leg.  I wore them many times that year, and then realised they were quite tasteless and wore them for a party themed .. let’s say .. ladies of the night and their appointed agents (see above).

2004 saw the end of university, the start of work – the start of proper cash flow – and the introduction of fashionista friends!  So my shoe collection began to expand.  I began to spend more and more on shoes, and slowly the height of the shoe got bigger and bigger.   I remember spending my first serious amount of money a pair of Filipo Raphael shoes ($345) in 2005!  [aside from boots, I actually haven’t spent that much on a single pair of shoes again]

Anyway – what has this got to do with Tony Bianco and Steve Madden you ask?!

Well, I’ll get on with.  2007/8 was a discovery for me: heels aren’t just for really special formal occasions – it’s nice to wear heels out to dinner, or to the movies, or to the office.. or to go shopping… a world was opening up.  It was around this time I found Steve Madden.  I was in shoe heaven.  And so, if I needed a shoe (or felt the need for a shoe) Steve Madden was my first port of call.  Work heels, heels for the sake of heels, and heels for special occasions. (My Steves below)

When the global financial crisis hit, I was devastated to discover Steve Madden Australia was packing up shop.  Abandoning me.  Where would I go for that one special pair of shoes now?  And then I found Tony.   Heels, boots, wedges – AND a DFO at South Wharf.  Tony had beautiful, well made shoes, and by this time I was at the stage when it was becoming important to have the right shoe for every outfit.

So, when I found out Steve was back, I tweeted an apology ‘I’m sorry Steve. While you were away, I fell in love with Tony. @TonyBiancoShoes @SteveMaddenAus‘.

Now, it seems Steve would like to make amends – I have got a VIP invite to the launch of the Steve Madden Flagship Store, here in Melbourne, this coming week.

So, we shall see if I can be wooed with goodies, booze and mini-hamburgers… x

As ebay tells me I have but 45 days until Christmas, I thought it would be the right time to start campaigning for something I’ve long thought to do – saving Christmas Trees.   I ask you: consider buying a potted tree to use every year, instead of a cut tree.

Christmas Trees – For Life, Not Just for Christmas: Potted not Chopped.

Borrowing a phrase from the likes of animal libration groups, I’ve decided to remind people that, like puppies and kittens, Christmas Trees too are living things and should not be discarded when Christmas is over.

I present to you exhibit A.   The spent Christmas Tree stuffed into the gardening bin.

Everyone is familiar with the sight of roadside littered pine trees throughout the month of January.   I did a quick google image search for ‘dead Christmas Tree’ and was surprised at the number of blogs that turned up, not admonishing the wasted trees, but rather praising the ‘January kerbside collection’ to come and collect all the dead trees.

Growing trees to be cut and sold as Christmas trees is now a world wide flourishing industry.   Started after World War 2, growers around the globe now produce more than 33 million trees annually.   In Australia, we grow Pinus radiata – each tree takes around 5 years to grow to the point where it can be harvested as a Christmas Tree.  (Sourced from Department of Primary Industries).

I haven’t researched the environmental effects or benefits of plantation growing – I just think it seems like an awful waste of a tree.  Is it so commonplace to have masses of pines cut down every year for household decoration, that no-one considers that perhaps instead of letting a new tree die in the living room every year, one could buy a Christmas Tree in a .. pot..?

I guess it’s because I grew up with potted Christmas trees all my life, that I don’t find it strange now that I need to look after a tree in a pot during the year, brush it down a couple of weeks before Christmas, and get my husband to drag it inside. No, they’re not the easiest of trees to look after, they do need water… and yes, the first tree I had living out of home died in its pot in the hot Australian summer when I forgot to water it.   But, we’ve now had our next Christmas tree for a few years, and it’s a real pleasure to watch the bright green needles appear on it’s little branches every spring.

So, I do ask, consider not wasting the life of a tree, but saving the life of tree.  Consider popping down to your local nursery and buying a Christmas tree that you and your family can watch grow over the years, until it gets to big to fit in the house.   A Christmas tree can be for life, not just Christmas.

 

I feel some need to explain my falling behind in the ‘asewnitemaweek’ challenge that I set myself.   My sewing machine going in for a service was the beginning of a slippery slope.   I began to go to the gym while my sewing machine was absent, and have continued to go (taking out my Tues and Thurs sewing nights).   My weekends have been full and busy – so many birthdays around.. and of course I was sent to Adelaide for work.  So I am aiming to get a design in for the Tessuti Awards, but time is flying by – and I ran out of calico!!!

The other exciting thing I have been working on is helping to coordinate the release of my husband (Glenn Howard)’s new EP – The April Tree, Autumn Sessions.   Artwork, blogs, updated websites…. and of course the pressing of the EPs!

So many excuses, but this is part of the challenge.   I began the sewnitemaweek to see whether it was possible to sew your own clothes in amongst the daily business of life, to the extent where clothes shopping is not needed.   The answer I think is still ‘yes’.

And of course, one day when Glenn is a massive music celebrity, I’ll have all the time in the world to sew..!