Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We're Prepping You For A Career as A Doctor, Nick!

Think back to your childhood: remember your first bicycle your dad bought you? Or your first video game console? Or how about your first desktop computer? What about your first cell phone? Remember how cool you felt when you became the owner of a new toy?

I'm quite certain that Nick experienced the same kind of kick he got when he sat on his first bicycle (assuming he did get a bicycle when he was younger) while he was putting on his first custom made suit a couple of weeks ago at Balsam Custom Tailors. Slipping into a fine custom made suit is like diving off a 10 meter platform and slipping smoothly into the sparkling water below, then feeling the water engulf you completely.

Getting your first suit made is a thrilling thing. It may not be water that engulfs you but you'll be engulfed in a beautiful suiting that fits you like a glove. You'll be so good looking that even your mother won't recognize you. You'll be so good looking that when you cast your gaze upon a million bucks, the one million bucks will think you're worth more than it.

I'm guessing you now want a custom made suit?

A custom made suit can make you look really good. You want proof? Feast your eyes on Nick. He wants to apply to med school once he's done his degree. Wearing his new suit, he doesn't even need to go to school to become a doctor. He looks like a doctor already!

This is pre-doctor Nick in his 80% done suit. I absolutely love his tie. It goes beautifully with his shadow stripe navy suit.

When I say it fits like a glove, I'm not exaggerating. Check out the contour of his back. You can actually see it!


And this is the look that will make the one million bucks cry.

Thank you Nick for sharing your suit with everybody. And thank you Nick's dad, Geoff, for being so excited! We're excited for you guys too!

(Navy Suit: $580 + HST)

Photography by Cindy Wu Photography

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This Is What Happens When Your Closet Overflows

You start selling all your precious junk! And other people's unused treasures.

First poster for Her Closet: Once Removed, my facebook page for finding all the gently used beautiful goodies I'm selling! Please go to the page and "Like" it. I haven't figured out how to add the "Like" box to this blog so anybody who has a clue, feel free to lend a hand or it will take me eons to figure it out.

If you find that there's something that you like, please email me and you can come try or pick up your item at Balsam Custom Tailors.

Thank you for reading my blog and supporting me! Hugs!!

Photography by Cindy Wu Photography

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Improve The Look of Your Body By Streamlining Your Off-The-Rack Suit

On a recent bright sunny normal afternoon, a shy but tall, handsome and courteous young man called Ian marched into our store. In his arms, he cradled a jacket, matching pants, a belt and some dress shoes. "I need some alterations on my suit please," he said.

After a couple minutes in the fitting room, Ian came out in his suit. Ah-ha! He was the perfect specimen for this article, I thought.

You see, Ian is a tall and fairly lean guy. And tall and lean guys often have trouble finding a suit that actually fits right in the arms length-wise or in the torso girth-wise. However, Ian did one very important thing right when buying his suit from the store: he made sure that the jacket fit him in the shoulders.

If the shoulders fit, then the rest of the jacket should be alterable to fit the rest of your body.

Ian's suit needed alterations in two parts and they are as follows:

First Problem: The jacket looked too billowy on his lean frame. Solution? Take in the center seam to cut out the extra fabric.

Second Problem: The sleeves were too short on him because his arms are long. Solution? Add fabric underneath the sleeves to make a false hem. That way, we could extend whatever original fabric there is left underneath the sleeves to make them longer.

Before the alterations, the suit looked sloppy on Ian. The natural shape of his body was hidden underneath all that fabric. Needless to say, the sleeves indicated a bad fit.

Several days later, Ian came back to pick up his suit and modelled it for me. Here's our little photoshoot:

Ian, in his altered suit. Streamlined to perfection.

Notice the sleeves are much longer.

The excess fabric on the back is gone.

The contour of his back is now clearly visible.

A fitted suit makes a smiley face.

Ian, if you're reading this, thanks for letting me take your pictures :)

Photography by Cindy Wu Photography

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Can't Resist That Parisian Chic

Marlene Dietrich embraced men's fashion head-on. She was known to have a gutsy approach in fashion during a time when women rarely wore anything other than dresses or skirts.

THIS FALL, baggy pleated trousers are making a huge comeback. I've got to say, it's not something that all ladies are ready to accept. Any pant with huge hips and thighs and tapers towards the bottom aren't the most flattering on any women's figure...even if you were a 5'10" leggy babe, you'd still look fuller than you really are in pleated trousers.

Men-inspired pleated trousers aren't new news though. Coco Chanel made a ladies' pant suit in the 1930's and German actress/fashion icon, Marlene Dietrich wore it. Since then, pant suits for the ladies have been reworked over and over again to look feminine and modern. But it's no surprise that the women's slim cut suit is nowhere to be seen this year. The classic loose fit trouser is the way to go! And it's no wonder that they dominate the runway--since it's the classic pieces that can stand the test of time.

I personally cannot resist a look that oozes elegance! I raided my mom's closet and I found this pair (see below) hiding in her closet. If they weren't too big for me and they weren't her favourite, I would steal it. You can see that it fits really nicely but it's all an illusion--thanks to some handy bulldog clips. Even though I can't have these, I will be owning a pair in about two weeks time. I'm having mine custom made to look like hers. Yes, I'm serious.

I've figured that since I'm petite, I would benefit from the thinnest and slinkiest or silkiest fabric possible if I'm going to have a go at the pleated pant look. Remember, you want to reduce the amount of fabric possible if you want to look slimm-ER. Looking slim is not an option in pleated pants.

So, here's a few tips that I've observed and figured out if you're daring enough to try this look:

1. Counter the bulkiness of the pants with a very slim top (think bodysuit slim)
2. Wear your highest heels possible
3. Go with dark colours
4. Select a pair that has a HIGH WAIST (that creates the illusion of longer legs)

I picked out some shoes that will go so absolutely freakin' well with this type of pant. Hope you like!

(Parisian Elegance, Parisian Poshness, Parisian Vintage)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Who Needs Lapels And A Tie When You've Got a Mandarin Collar?

The Mandarin Collar is a style of jacket collar that is inspired by the cheongsam that the Mandarin people wore during Imperial China. In the mid-twentieth century, it was a style worn as an Eastern counterpart to the Western style suit. The short collar stands upright and does not overlap unless it has a button closure. Both men and ladies can wear a jacket with a Mandarin collar.

When you wear a Mandarin collar jacket, a dress shirt with a matching collar is worn. You do not need to wear a tie.

Just like a regular suit jacket, if you use a material with a classic pattern and colour to make your Mandarin collar jacket, it can be dressed up or dressed down to your desire. Black is a good option. Feel free to wear your favourite T-shirt underneath the jacket for a more casual Oriental-inspired urban look.

Kevin, pictured below, is wearing a black Mandarin collar jacket and white Mandarin collar shirt made by Balsam Custom Tailors.

(Mandarin Collar Jacket: polyester/wool blend $399 + HST, Mandarin Collar Shirt: poly/cotton blend $138 + HST)

Converse sneakers and jeans scream "URBAN!"

A necktie is not necessary when you're wearing a Mandarin collar shirt.

An unbuttoned jacket gives a very laidback look. But please feel free to button up your shirt!

Kevin looking so Orientally urban.

Kevin has French cuffs on his Mandarin collar shirt. It's a marvelous example of Eastern style meets Western style. With fashion, anything goes! (But a tie around a Mandarin collar is a big no-no!)

Here's a sample of my photography for this lovely couple. They were on their way to a wedding until I kidnapped them for a 20 minute photoshoot.

Photography by Cindy Wu Photography

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Boy Loves Girl This Much.

After I posted the article on my purple skirt creation, I've gotten some great response and some requests from several people asking me to take pictures of myself wearing it. Well, as if you really had to ask... I love putting stylish outfits together! It's a passion I inherited from my mother.

Yesterday's weather was perfect for a little fashion photoshoot--my idea of fun! It was the perfect project to do on my day-off so I got my sleepy, unartistic, analytical, aviation geek/scientist boyfriend to shoot for me. Like I said, it was the perfect project: Girl tries on multiple outfits, boy waits, girl tries on more outfits, boy waits some more, girl loves her outfit, boy takes a picture, girl goes to change some more, then boy waits some more!

The completion of this project is a testament to the boy's love for me and his superior tongue-biting skills. *big fat grin*

I love you too, Boy.

{Office Look}
(Purple Skirt: Handmade by Me @ Balsam Custom Tailors, Shoes: Enrico Antiniro, Sweater: K2, Handbag: discontinued Louis Vitton Epi Noe)

{Casual Daytime Look}

(Purple Skirt: Handmade by Me @ Balsam Custom Tailors, White Tank: Winners, Beaded Bangle: Le Chateau, Gold Suede Sandals: Soda, Hot Pink Clutch: Coach)

{Dinner Party Look}

(Purple Skirt: Handmade by Me @ Balsam Custom Tailors, Shoes: Staccato, Purse: No name, Chiffon Top: Unknown)

{Night Out Look}

(Purple Skirt: Handmade by Me @ Balsam Custom Tailors, Shoes: Versace, Suede Clutch: Moschino, Suede Belt: Moschino, Lace Top: Suzy Shier)

{Lunch Date with Girlfriends Look}

(Purple Skirt: Handmade by Me @ Balsam Custom Tailors, Ruffle Top: Dazzle Spirea, Booties: Anne Michelle, Clutch: French Connection )

Photography By Cindy Wu Photography, Assistant Photographer - Christopher Henry

Monday, August 16, 2010

Your Favourite Jeans. Worth Saving.

One of our specialties at Balsam Custom Tailors is denim repair.

Think again before you throw out that ripped up pair of your favourite jeans. We can patch up that hole in your jeans in such a way that it looks almost like it hasn't been patched before. The method we use is very durable and aesthetically pleasing.

Above is a sample of our denim repair work. Our customers love our work and are happy to know that they can get another few years' wear out of their favourite jeans.

Repair Cost: $25 and up + HST

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is Sewing Really Like Driving a Big Truck?

The best thing about a creative project is that there is no quick and direct method that you can use to complete your task. It's a journey full of trial and errors that requires a little snip here and a bit of patching there, some hair-pulling and maybe some very satisfying cussing. I embarked on such a journey about three weeks ago.

I decided to make a simple lined skirt. A. Plain. Simple. Hassle-free. Skirt. I'm not going to lie: I have as much experience in sewing as any of us have in driving a two ton truck blindfolded. To make an analogy, I can sew just like I can drive but it depends on what it is I'm sewing--or driving.

I knew I had enough basic sewing skills to manage something like a plain simple hassle-free skirt without any guidance. I started the skirt and was about 80% done until I realized that my skirt looked too, uh, plain and almost ugly. So...back to the drawing board I went and this time, I took all the ideas that Anda (talented designer/seamstress and my beloved mother) threw at me. Mr. Chan offered some of his valuable time-saving and fabric-salvaging suggestions as he looked on in horror while I constructed what could only be identified as a hideous mess.

It was a gruelling march but I made it! The battle is over and the skirt I did NOT envision has been realized.

The following is a pictoral documentary on the making of the skirt. If you have time and feel like doing a little project(actually, it's really freakin' big), feel free to use whatever information I have provided to guide you along. Good luck.

Time required: 3 hours if you're good, 3 weeks if you're good like me

Level of difficulty (1 being easy - 5 being extremely difficult) : 5 - it's just like driving a truck blindfolded!

First, start by choosing your fabric and getting a 1 and 1/2 yard of it. I picked a lavendar cotton because I think the colour is seasonally versatile.

Even though this skirt is meant to sit high on the waist, use the measurement of your hips and tack on 3" for the length of the fabric you need (the extra 2" provide the gathering effect directly under the waistband and the 1" is for the seams). Add 3" more or so if you're going to make an overlapping slit down the front of the skirt.

For the lining underneath, I picked a silky gold polysester fabric. Use as much of the polyester as you would for the outer layer. Before sewing the two layers together at the top, surge along the tops first.

Draw and cut out the curves on the sides of both layers. Remember to leave at least 1/2 inch seam. The curved parts will overlap to form the slit. After you've made the curves on both layers, sew the seams up (sides and bottom).

Use the measurement of your waist to determine how much elastic you need for the waistband. I picked a thick 3" wide elastic because it creates a slimming effect around the waist, just like a belt does. Generally, you would want to minus an 1" or 2" from your actual waist measurement when cutting the elastic because it's an elastic and it will stretch. Surge the ends and sew them together to form a loop.

Wrap the skirt fabric around your hips to make sure that the finished skirt will actually be big enough for you to pull up to your waist. If you had included an extra 4" for the overlapping slit, this is when you should base the overlapping parts. Now, you have a waist for your skirt.

Take your skirt and divide it into 4 equal vertical parts. Mark the center of the overlapping section and fold at the mark to get the halfway point on the back of the skirt (refer to Step Three in above picture). Now your skirt should be divided into 2 equal vertical parts. Do the same for the sides and you should get 4 equal vertical parts.

Divide the waistband into 4 equal parts using the above method.

Line up a chalk mark on the elastic to one on the skirt. Sew from chalk mark to chalk mark along the base of the elastic. You'll need to pull on the elastic while you do the sewing in order for the marks to align. As long as your marks align, there should be equal amounts of fabric gathering along the elastic.

Put on your skirt and hike it up to wherever you want it to sit. This is when you adjust the length of the skirt. I like mine just above the knee so I folded it up, re-cut the curved hem, and sewed the seams up.

Sew the buttons on--as many as you want--along the top front flap.

Voila! Here's my cute tulip skirt. I like that it's simple because it gives me many outfit options. It could be a work skirt or a dinner party skirt.