Thursday, July 29, 2010

Doing it the Eco-friendly Way

Each time we receive new fabric swatches, the old ones at our shop get discarded. In a green city like Vancouver, throwing out something that is perfectly reusable is a crime, so to speak.

Instead of tossing the swatches, I decided to save them to make useful and pretty things out of them like the silk pillow case pictured above. It's soft. It's cool to the touch. It's pretty. But best of all, it's made out of silk scraps!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

His Jacket...My Obsession (Part III)

(Pink Jacket: Custom-made by Balsam Custom Tailors, Shoes: Bread & Butter, Clutch: Steve Madden, Dress: No name, Necklace: No name, Bracelet: Forever 21)

(Pink Jacket: Custom-made by Balsam Custom Tailors, Shorts: United Colors of Benetton, Shoes: No name, Bracelet: Forever 21, Necklace: No name, Floral Camisole: Winners)

(Pink Jacket: Balsam Custom Tailors, Shoes: Guess, Jeans: Washborn, Polk-a-dot Silk Top: Forever 21, Bracelet: Forever 21, Necklace: No name)

(Photography by / Assistant photographer - Nathalie Carter)

Monday, July 26, 2010

His Jacket...My Obsession (Part II)

Meet Mr.Chan, our Master Tailor. He is--let me find the right word--precious. I can't think of a more appropriate word for a man of his profession. The number of traditional tailors are quickly dimishing due to retirement and the lack of people who are interested enough to learn this art and make a living out of it. Technological advances and lowly-paid factory workers are replacing traditional tailors who handmake their suits from scratch.

I watched Mr.Chan skillfully cut and sew the lining I carefully selected onto my second perfect blazer. I'm always impressed to see a tailor or seamstress transform a piece of cloth into something most consumers would only see in its final stage--hanging on a rack inside a clothing store ready to be purchased.

I'm very thankful that Mr.Chan possesses the skills that he has. Until you've seen how clothes are made from inception to their finished form, you really wouldn't know how talented tailors and seamstresses are.

On top is a pictures of Mr.Chan working on my second blazer which is pink! Yes, a pink men-inspired blazer. How uncommon is that?

Mr.Chan is a little shy so I respected his request that I don't post his face on my blog. Little does he know, I'm only showering him with many compliments on here!

Pink gives what otherwise would be a manly jacket a very girlie and fresh feel. You could try creating an edgy look with a pink blazer by pairing it with some leather pants or shorts. In the previous post, I briefly suggested a few ideas on how to wear a manly blazer without actually looking like a man. Well, with a pink blazer, you could get away with anything that your boyfriend/husband would actually wear. Be bold--wear a black tie on top of a white shirt when you're sporting your girlie blazer. Finish the look with some boyfriend jeans!

Here's how my very personalized pink blazer looks like so far:

Info: 10% polyester/90% wool pink jacket ($199 for the standard style), 100% cotton grey check lining ($120 for lining fabric & replacement), blazer buttons ($8 from Fabricana & $25 for button sewing)

Total Cost of Pink Jacket: $352 + HST

(Photography by

Sunday, July 25, 2010

His Jacket...My Obsession (Part I)

When I say "His Jacket", I don't mean anybody's jacket in specific. I'm referring to a ladies' closet staple item called the Boyfriend Blazer. The jacket generally features a straight masculine cut adorned with details commonly found on a men's suit jacket, hence the name "Boyfriend Blazer" (BF blazer). The length of the jacket is usually much longer than a traditional women's blazer.

The BF blazer is versatile and can be paired with almost anything to create that polished but casual look that any girl can pull off. Looking good in a blazer requires little effort. Throw a BF blazer on top of a white t-shirt paired with some skinny jeans and you're ready to go. Try a blazer over a slim cut dress for a classy look. Or be carefree and pull on some comfy leggings. You really can't go wrong with a nicely structured BF blazer. However, be cautious not to wear anything else that's masculine on top of the blazer to avoid really looking like a cross-dresser.

Because they're so versatile, I wear them all year round. Have one you can wear in Spring/Summer and one in Fall/Winter. Stick with lighter colours and light-weight materials in the warmer seasons and darker and heavier materials for the chilly seasons. If you really don't want to put much thought into what blazer to get and you're happy with just one: go for a medium grey. It's a safe colour and goes with anything and everything.

I love blazers and since I wear them a lot, I have to be sure they fit me perfectly. It's very rare that you can buy a ready-made blazer that will fit every part of your upper body. The chest is usually too wide on me and the sleeves are way too long. And usually, the billowiness in the back hides the natural curve of my spine so it makes me look thicker and wider than I really am.

A bad fit just makes you look sloppy! I swear by custom-made and once you've tried it, you will never want to go back to buying ready-made jackets. In the pictures above and to the right, I'm wearing a navy men's style blazer with a bright purple lining (a fabulous choice in colour, don't you think?) custom-made for me to my measurements by Balsam Custom Tailors. I paired it with some high-waist pleated shorts and cuffed sandals.

At Balsam Custom Tailors in Kerrisdale, you are given a fantastic selection of cloths to choose from. From 100% luxury Italian wool to cool and light-weight English mink-cashmere wool to easy-to-care for polyester and wool blends, we're sure to have something that you'll love! You'll also have the option to personalize your jacket, from the shape of the shoulders down to the type of button style. I'll dedicate a post to custom-made jacket styles and cloth type in the near future.

If you're like me and like to play around with fashion, I suggest you go for the most economical option--the polyester wool blend. A small amount of polyester is added to the wool cloth to keep it from wrinkling too easily. And shrinkage in the wash is minimal but I recommend whole-heartedly that you dry-clean your blazers to retain its structured shape.

Here are the details that I requested for my blazer:

Bright purple lining to contrast the deep navy. For me, the colour of the lining is extremely important since I have my sleeves rolled up 90% of the time.

Notch lapel with a button hole (exclusively a men's jacket detail since only men put flowers through the lapel button holes). Top-stitching on the edges of the jacket.

Four sleeve buttons and surgeon's cuff (a slit in the sleeve cuff that actually opens up).

Single-breasted and single button closure (the longer the lapels, the less buttons you'd want on a jacket)

One top-stitched breast pocket.

Info: 20% polyester/80% wool navy blazer ($199 for the standard look), purple polyester lining ($120 for lining fabric & replacement)

Total Cost on Navy Blazer: $319 + HST

(Photography by /Assistant photographer - Nathalie Carter)

Friday, July 23, 2010

An Introduction To Tailored Clothes...It's a Wonderful Thing!

For those of you who are of average build and of average height, finding off-the-rack clothes to fit into shouldn't be too big of a problem since designers and clothing manufacturers produce garments based on several sets of average measurements--those of which we consumers have come to know as sizes XS to XL or size 0 to 16. Some brands choose to be a little more comprehensive so they expand the size range from XXS to XXL. You are bound to fit into one of those sizes.

But let's be realistic here: being able to fit into a shirt doesn't actually mean the shirt fits you. People come in all shapes and sizes. I'm 5'3" and can fit into a pair of size 25 jeans but often it ends up being to long for me, so what do I do? I have the option of folding the cuffs up but that is just way too tacky for me and not very flattering for my height (cuffs tend to cut legs off, making them look shorter and disproportionate). So folding cuffs is not something I would opt for unless I felt confident that I could strut around in 4 inch heels while wearing those jeans.

What is the next most sensible thing to do to solve that misfit?

No, you don't turn the hems in and glue them in place. Believe me, I have seen hundreds of people who have used the most imaginative ways to make their clothes fit them better (I'll tell you more about what my job is in another post...oooh, suspenseful!).

The most appropriate way to get those jeans to fit me is to get them--tailored! Or another way to say it is "hemmed". Most high-end shops or department stores offer that service when you purchase your pants--at an additional cost. There are also local tailor shops you can visit. Getting pants hemmed is the most sought after alteration. Hemming can be done on practically any type of pant: dress pants, cuffed pants, jeans, yoga pants, chiffon pants, leggings (although it is a well-known fact that they should never ever been worn as pants but I'll include it here just because it's got two legs), hiking pants, leather pants and the list goes on.

The same kind of alteration can be done to shirts, jackets, sweaters, dresses, and skirts. Alternatively, if you are a tall person and the top/pants are too short, you may have the option to "let down" the hem to make the pants longer to fit you--but that all depends how much seam you have underneath.

Alterations can be done to cure any length-related problems on clothes. What about if something is too wide? Whether its the width of those jeans at the waist or width of those sleeves that is bothering you, there is something that can be done. For instance, you know those flared cargo pants that you liked so much 5 years ago? You can have it turned into a pair of skinny cargo pants that is all the rage right now.

An experienced professional tailor/seamstress can make alterations on your clothes without leaving any tell-tale signs that they've been worked on. The less experienced ones may cut corners and damage your clothes--so choose who you want to work on your clothes wisely and find a place that does comprehensive tailoring. Choosing a tailor/seamstress is like choosing a hairstylist. You want to pick someone who knows what you want and will be willing to work with you on your ideas.