Erica Bunker | DIY Style! The Art of Cultivating a Stylish Wardrobe
I'm a fashion sewing blogger who inspires the average home sewer how to look beyond outdated commercial pattern instructions, select fine fabrics and cultivate a luxurious home-sewn wardrobe inspired by luxury brands.
I haven't worn a slip dress since the 90s. I remember buying them from stores like The Limited and The Limited Express (just Express, now) and Lerner Shops (now New York & Company). That's just how long ago it was. I was in my 20s. I would layer them over t-shirts and wear them with Doc Martens. It was my college fashion/young mom uniform for a while... I was in my 90s Marc Jacobs grunge loving phase. And I hadn't thought about a bias slip dress in I don't know when. Until now...
Indie pattern company -- Just Patterns had sent me their newly released Christy Slip Dress pattern back in 2017. I thought it was cute and unlike anything I'd seen from the Big 4. It was simple and kinda perfect. Not over designed. Just like how I remembered the ones from back in the day. But at the time, that style was just not on my radar. But as I do with all of my digi patterns, I saved it to my Dropbox because I knew I'd get around to it. And I have.
For my dress, I picked up some Blush Crepe Back Satin from Hobby Lobby. I picked this because (1) I wasn't sure if this pattern was going to work for me and I didn't want to spring for pricey silk charmeuse; (2) Silk charmeuse rarely comes any wider that 44" and this fabric is 58". This pattern is cut on the bias. Plus, I added around 3 or 4 inches so that it would fall below the knee in a midi length. So, I needed that width.
If you're new to Just Patterns, they're a brand that caters to more advanced home sewers. So, basically no instructions. You need to have the ability to figure it out yourself. This would be a good pattern to start with. It only has 3 pieces (front, back and the measurements for creating your spaghetti straps).
I lined my dress with pale pink chiffon and understitched to make sure that the lining didn't rolled out.
It's details like this that you need to know to do from experience.
I used French Seams and narrow hems.
I know you all love to know about bra situations. This one is standard strapless bra-friendly.
This is a cool and really simple pattern, simple in design, construction and style. And I can't wait to throw this on with a pair of flat sandals and a denim jacket for a casual look!
I'd always wanted a sewing machine with the embroidery feature and lots of good decorative stitches. I had a lower end, big box model in the past. But it just wasn't advanced enough for my liking and I never gave it more interest than adding a design or so to my linings in coats and jackets. When I got my Baby Lock Aventura II a few weeks ago, I was determined to learn about embroidery from the ground up... starting with the decorative sewing. I did my research because I wanted to use decorative sewing and embroidery in a sophisticated and polished way. I want my garments to look high-end and not like a craft project.
I wanted an easy-to-make summer suit, one that I could wear together or mix the pieces into my wardrobe. I picked Simplicity 8891. The thing about "easy" is that it can possibly mean painfully plain. And that's how I felt about this pattern. It's simple, but it has good details. I knew it needed some zhushing up.
My fabric is this incredible Italian Canary and Moonstruck Double-Faced Stretch Cotton Twill. This fabric is super soft and has a real comfortable amount of give. It feels like a double knit and it has a really good bottom weight. Really good for a body con dress or fitted pants. I pre-treated the fabric in the washer and dryer. It came out pretty wrinkled. But after a good pressing, it was beautiful.
For the jacket, I cut the size 14 and graded out to the 16 at the hip and added 1 inch to the length. I decided to use the decorative stitches instead of basic topstitching.
I picked this diamond looking 7mm satin stitch which I felt would really pop using embroidery thread.
Using the Edit/Stitch switching key and selecting the elongation key to make the pattern shorter and the single/repeat key to indicate that I wanted this to be a continuous stitch and not just a single pattern. I pressed the memory key (the pocket) to save it, so I wouldn't have to go through all of these adjustments each time, because I was going to be using this stitch throughout this project.
I'm really loving the detail that it added to the jacket.
I used the decorative satin stitching to tack down the pleats in the front and the back.
Additionally, I created a belt. I'm not the biggest fan of self tie belts, so I wanted to make a real belt. I interfaced with weft fusible to give it body and carried out the decorative stitching too.
I've seen the eyelet stitch before, but I never thought to actually use it or what it was for.
The 7mm width is perfect for stabilizing metal eyelet installation.
For the shorts, I cut the size 16 and made a 1.5 inch full butt adjustment. I really like the length that they are straight out of the envelope.
This is how I used the decorative stitching on the shorts.
I really love both of these pieces and I can't wait to work them throughout my wardrobe.
I love beautiful silk shirts. They just up the ante when worn with a pair of jeans. It's one of my all-time favorite go-to casual looks.
When I saw Mimi's pattern - Simplicity 8830, I knew I'd either be making it in silk or a tissue weight linen (similar to hers on the cover). I'd already purchased this Fuchsia Silk Double Georgette from Mood Fabrics for a dress project. I could never find a lining fabric that was right for it, so I put it aside. And it turned out to be perfect for this shirt.
The details of this shirt are just perfect. It reminds me of shirts by the brand Equipment. I cut the size 16, to ensure that it would be big and room, without being sloppy. I sewed it straight from envelope.
How I Work With Silk Fabrics
I pre-washed my silk by hand washing it, because that's how I plan to launder this shirt, as I do all of my silk casual pieces. When I pressed the fabric prior to cutting, I used just regular old spray starch. It gives the fabric a crisp hand and makes it easier to cut. A lot of sewers recommend using a spray stabilizer. I've tried that before and I found that it was messy and it makes the fabric too stiff for my liking and you have to wash the garment before you can wear. With the spray starch, it just makes it easier to handle and I didn't feel like the fabric was getting away from me.
Straightening the Grain
When working with silk and other fluid fabrics, you have to "straighten the grain". When you buy fabric off the bolt, no matter how careful the cutter is, the fabric is never cut straight on the grain line. Near the cut edge of the fabric, I always clip into the selvage and tear the fabric across the grain.
Laying Out and Cutting
I layout my silk and cut my pattern pieces out on a single layer -- never on the fold. If there is a pattern piece that requires cutting on the fold. I just trace it out and cut it in one single piece. I use silk pins to pin my fabric and rotary cutter to get a nice clean edge.
When sewing with silk and other fluid fabrics, you have to make sure that you select the appropriate machine foot and needle for your fabric. I always recommend using a walking foot for difficult fabrics. On my Baby Lock Aventura II, it has the Automatic Fabric Sensor System (Automatic Presser Foot Pressure) that detects the thickness of the fabric and it automatically adjust the tension and makes sure that the fabric is feed smoothly. So, I haven't found that I needed my walking foot as of yet. Also, you should be sewing silk fabric with a sharp needle. I use Schmetz Microtex 130/705 H-M 70/10 for a silk such as this one. And for a lightweight silk like a georgette or crepe de chine, you want to shorten your stitch length to 1.5mm - 2mm. Make sure you test all of these things out before sewing on your expensive silk fabric.
I recommend using French Seams or you can use your serger.
I'm a firm believer in using a silk organza pressing cloth. Silk is a natural fiber, so it can take a lot of high heat and steam. But what it doesn't like is water. Make sure that your iron isn't spitting. Water will create water spots.
I used a narrow hem for this beautifully curved hem.
The only change I made was to add a yoke facing. Anytime I'm sewing a shirt or shirt dress that has a yoke, I always make a facing. I have a tutorial on how to I sew it.
These are my beautiful buttons I found at Joann's.
The shirt has the epaulets that I've been craving lately with my utility obsession.
I'm so happy that I decided to make a shirt with this beautiful fabric instead of the dress I was initially planning. I know I'm going to get a lot wear out of this!
I'm so excited to announce my brand new partnership with Baby Lock. Sometimes in life and in sewing, we can easily become complacent in our surroundings and with our creative tools. And just when you start to feel stagnant and bored and think that you've taken this journey as far as you can, an amazing new opportunity presents itself.
Having the opportunity to sit and use good sewing machines has really taught me what I need and what I don't need with my ever evolving home sewn wardrobe. I've learned that sometimes you can have too much of one thing and too little of another. And when you find the perfect balance, it can really spur on the creativity. So, allow me to introduce you to my newest sewing studio additions:
This is the beautiful Baby Lock Aventura II. Isn't she gorgeous! I've always had a desire to get into embroidery. I've dabbled in the past with my low level big box store embroidery machine. It only came with a 4x4 embroidery hoop and it was so limiting that I felt frustrated most of the time and it ended up collecting a lot of dust. But this beauty has 6 1/4" x 10 1/4" embroidery field. I'm taking the Baby Lock Online Sewing Classes so that I can learn what this gorgeous gal can do.
She also sews beautifully. I spent the last week putting her to the test by making two pairs of jeans. If you want to test out a sewing machine's stitch quality, sew up some denim!
Things I love about it already, a top loading bobbin and the machine indicates when the bobbin is running out. That single feature made me want to jump for joy.
I can't count the numerous time I've sewn an entire seam without bobbin thread.
The machine has nice bright LED lights and a vivid HD LCD screen.
I also have the Baby Lock Victory. It has the amazing Jet Air Threading™ and Automatic Thread Delivery™. I use to dread having to change my serger threads and would often skip matching the color of the serger thread to the garment. But now, I look forward because this is so quick and easy.
I'm so thankful to the kind folks at Baby Lock for giving me the opportunity to partner with them and introduce you all to these beautiful machines. I can't wait to share amazing tutorials with you all!
I love separates. And this is probably my first time, if not, then the pattern wasn't very memorable -- that I sewed more than one piece from an outfit/wardrobe type pattern. What I love about this pattern is, the pieces aren't matchy-matchy. They don't necessarily go together, but they definitely work. You get a super cute and sexy backless slip dress, topped with a cropped trench jacket. It feels like you're wearing a this great dress and you reach for your favorite jacket on your way out the door.
Utility dressing is a big ass deal this spring. You can't go in any store or look on any retail site without seeing something with trench and cargo details or boiler suits. It's what's currently popping. So, when I saw Mimi's pattern - Simplicity 8890, I knew that I needed it. I'm someone who mostly prefers a jacket to a sweater as a topper, so this is kinda perfect and right up my alley.
For the cropped trench, I found the perfect fabric at Hobby Lobby. It's a Khaki Solid Twill that's 100% cotton. And it sews beautifully. I cut the size 16 and I added an inch to the length.
It has beautiful trench details like these great epaulets and wonderful edge stitching and top stitching.
I lined the underside of the flap with plaid Burberry-esque fabric.
And since the jacket is unlined, I did a Hong Kong finish.
I foresee lots and lots of wear out of this jacket.
Let's go ahead and get the elephant in the room question out of the way, so we can all move on in peace: I'm not wearing a bra, so no point in asking what kind. Do your own research and find options that work you. Y'all wear me out every single time I post something backless...
Tennis has got to be one of the few sports that are more fashion-forward. Team uniforms don’t really leave space for each athlete’s personality to shine through, but tennis allows players more freedom to dress as they please— within the rules of the federation, of course! The outfits worn in the sport can be really modern and stylish, so much so that they can even be donned outside of the court. If you remember, I previously posted Simplicity 1370 - tennis skort that was converted into regular daytime bottoms. It turned out to be a lovely addition to a dashing summer ensemble. It’s not the first time that sports apparel has been used as casual wear. It’s actually an ongoing trend that goes by the term athleisure. Simply put, it’s the combination of athletic and leisure wear because they’re suitable for both occasions. You’ve probably seen many women in a sports bra and leggings combo outside of the gym, or the latest runners walking the aisles of a supermarket. That’s what you call athleisure.
Fashion historian Deirdre Clemente notes that young Americans started showing up in sports apparel to casual settings since the 19th century, way before brands like Lululemon rose to popularity. Sports influenced the way we dress and continues to do so. Sweatshirts, tracksuits, and lycra bodysuits are not just meant for the gym and exercise studios anymore. They can be used as casual clothing, and no one will bat an eye. If your dad or husband still wears polo shirts, they’re actually derived from the shirts typically sported by tennis players. There’s really no single design for tennis outfits which makes them more versatile than say, football jerseys. That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise when new street fashion trends are influenced by what’s worn on the tennis court. In fact, Glamour reported that typical tennis garbsuch as polo dresses, A-line skirts, and halter dresses have inspired brands to create their own casual versions. Tyler Haney, the CEO of clothing company Outdoor Voices, said in the article that tennis apparel really stood out as more fashionable ‘on and off the court’, without sacrificing things like comfort and durability.
(image: Style Caster)
The magazine also mentioned Serena Williams as one of the tennis icons who is noted for her fashion sense. It's easy to find an online search for Serena Williams’ remarkable tennis outfits because there are just so many.
(image: Style Caster)
A list by Style Caster includes an incredible get-up that's still fresh in everyone’s memories: the famous black catsuit that Williams wore to the 2018 French Open. It was something that was never really seen before in the sport which made it a very memorable outfit, even if it received backlash from the French Tennis Federation for being too revealing.
But Williams is known for making bold choices whether in fashion or in her game. Her courageous mentality is really what cemented her status as an icon of the sport. Coral highlights that not only does she have 23 Grand Slam titles, she is also the highest paid female tennis player. On top of her earnings from tennis, Williams has partnerships with brands like Nike and has even started her very own fashion line! This means that you can continue to expect stunning tennis outfits off the rack. As per the rules of athleisure, these can be worn anywhere, even if you’re not a tennis player.
Athleisure has proven that it is not a fleeting fad but a trend that’s here to stay. And some of the people we have to thank for its rise in popularity are the tennis icons who keep serving looks on the court.
Happy first day of Spring! For this new season, pink is having a fashion moment. Pink was once relegated to the demure, prissy girls, babies and Barbie. Recently, women have reclaimed this color and recharged it with power. Every shade is popping from the palest Millennial pink to bubble gum and Pepto Bismal pink to the boldest, in-yo-face neon pink.
I decided I wanted to make a pink suit. And I went on a search for the perfect fabric. I found a gorgeous shade of pink fabric at Joann.
It looks and feels like a wool crepe.
My pattern is vintage McCallʼs 2370. Itʼs 20 years old and perfectly relevant for current trends.
The fabric and pattern are a perfect match.
I basically sewed this right out of the envelope with only minor tweaks. I created my double welt pockets with flap using my own method. If youʼve purchased my tailored jacket tutorial, youʼre familiar with it. And I added a breast pocket.
Hereʼs the inside and all of the interfacing. My lining fabric is white Ambiance Bemberg.
I interfaced the entire body of the jacket (except the sleeves) with a lightweight knit fusible. I used the block fusing method. I fused the back with weft interfacing instead of my normal backstay. Itʼs cool to change things up!
Iʼm having a moment with these longer length blazers.
Blazers that stop at the fullest part of the hip just donʼt cut it for me at this moment.
My pants are Vogue 9181, and I added pockets to them.
These are my absolute favorite wide legged trouser pattern.
I made my normal lengthening alteration by adding five inches. These pants have a nice deep three inch hem, which causes them to hang beautifully.
I still have a few more blazers that I want to crank out before summer. So, more to come!
When I think of the "Power Suit", I immediately think of the 80's movie -- "Working Girl". This movie was released (1988) as I was graduating high school. So, I wasn't quite grown enough to really get into that style, and I completely missed it the first time around. Everything old is new again. And who knew that this strong, padded-shoulder, double-breasted silhouette would come back. I've always secretly hoped it would! While a lot of style experts thought the 80s look was horrid, I grew up watching "Dynasty" and I was sitting and just waiting! LOL
I began to notice the emergence of this trend last fall. Sure, the blazer has always been around. But it's usually the basic notched collar, single-breasted one-button style. These reimagined iterations are everywhere for spring/summer 2019 in pretty pastels. And even on the fall/winter 2019 runways in beautiful textured textiles and plaids and checks... so, it's not going anywhere anytime soon. It's having a major moment, and as much as I love a tailored jacket, I'm going to milk it for everything it's worth.
Trying to find a current double-breasted blazer pattern is damn near impossible. I searched high and low, only to find a couple of out-of-print vintage patterns on Etsy and eBay (that I bought). Then it occurred to me to see what the indies had to offer. I went over to The Fold Line for a search. And voila! I found something that would work.
I picked the Style Arc McKenzie Blazer pattern. It wasn't quite what I was looking for. I really wanted a style that has princess seams that's tapered at the waist; a tailored back vent; surgeon's cuffs; peak lapels; and a breast pocket -- in a long length. Is all of that too much to ask for? Maybe it is. And maybe it's time I start producing patterns! It you want it, you need to create it. But nevertheless, I made this one work. And it was instantly available as a PDF download. And on the plus side, since it was meant to fit loosely, I sewed it without any alterations. So, that makes it a winner in my book.
Minerva Crafts reached out to me and offered a few yards of fabric for a project. And this couldn't be more timely. I selected the Lady McElroy Sydney 4 Way Stretch Plain Crepe Suiting Dress Fabric. It is 94% Polyester, which means when you arrive at your destination, you won't look all wrinkled and creased. And it's 6% Spandex. For fitted trousers, pencil skirts and body-conscious dresses, this is the most perfect crepe fabric that I've run across. I've found really good crepes in the past, but the color selections were nowhere nearly as vast as this offering. And it's heavy enough that lining your pants is not a requirement.
Since this is a dry-clean only suit, I didn't wash the fabric. However, I did pre-shrink it in the drying using the steam method. It's been my experience working with stretch wovens that they'll sometimes shrink during the construction when the heat and steam are applied during pressing. So, I didn't want to take any chances. For the construction, I used a stretch needle and I used a pressing cloth.
I used a Bemberg Rayon Lining and I love that the blazer is drafted with an all-in-one type of facing. It makes the inside look so good.
This pattern calls for shoulder pads. I almost always make my own custom ones. Here is a quick tutorial that I created for Instagram.
My only regret is that I didn't stop and modify the back with a tailored vent. I didn't even think about it until I was sewing.
The drafting is wonderful. The instructions will probably not be of much use to you if you're a beginner and/or you've never made a jacket before, because there are no step-by-step pictures or illustrations if that's what you're accustomed to. But fear not! I have the perfect solution for that. This pattern plus my Tailored Jacket Tutorial is a perfect match.
One thing I can always appreciate is that fashion is super cyclical. What goes around, always comes back around. I can guarantee that! That's why I pulled out McCall's 6279, that's currently out of print and from years gone by. Because for Spring 2019, "Utility Dressing", and trench styles falls under that -- is one of the major trends. And even though I would always think of a trench style as classic, the fact that it's considered a trend gave me a reason to dig out a pattern that I've planned to sew for years, but never got around to it.
It seems like everywhere you look, the trend of the moment is tailored womenswear. Pantsuits are back with a vengeance! However, trying to master the tailored womenswear trend isn’t always the easiest of tasks. You need to find the right way to rock this look for you. Here are some top tips to ensure you look as chic as can possibly be.
Look for inspiration
Whether you’re buying your clothes or sewing them yourself, it’s vital that you start scrolling for inspiration first. For example, when putting together my tailored jacket with double welt pockets, I had several images that I used as inspiration before I got started. This is the ultimate excuse to jump on Pinterest or spend a few hours flicking through magazines. Look at the styles and shapes, along with the patterns and colors. Make a mood board if you think it will help.
Make subtle swaps
Used to rocking a denim jacket in the spring? Simply swap it out for an oversized blazer. The best thing about the tailored womenswear trend is that you don’t have to go overboard. No one is saying you need to look like you’re about to go to work! Instead, swap out some of your usual pieces with something more tailored to create your own personal style – women’s jackets are perfect for this.
To pull off the tailored look, it’s all about the pants. You can play around with different styles, shapes, and colors, to bring your whole look together. For example, a pair of black, wide-legged women’s pants will match with pretty much anything else in your wardrobe. Tuck in a white tee and throw on that blazer to look as if you have just stepped off the catwalk. Alternatively, go bold with a bright yellow or red tailored pant.
Repurpose your shirts
Got some old work shirts lying around that you don’t wear anymore? Why not bring them back to life? You can cinch them in at the waist to make them more fitted (or try a peplum look), change up the color from white to pastel shades of pinks and yellows, or even sew on some accessories. This way, you can keep the majority of your outfit plain, and let your shirt do the talking.
Accessories are your friend
If you don’t want to play around too much with colors or patterns in the clothing items themselves, then you should consider adding something a little extra to your outfits using accessories. Keep your suit simple, with a plain white tee underneath, then go wild with layered necklaces or dangly earrings. It’s amazing how such little add-ons can elevate your tailored look.
You’ll want to consider the shoes you’re going to rock with your new tailored outfits for more than one reason. Firstly, what kind of pant leg is going to look best with those shoes? Will a wide-leg swamp a dainty heel? Secondly, what about the color? If you’re a fan of fluoro shoes or bright colored heels, then perhaps you’ll want to keep the colors and patterns simple on the suit itself. Always consider your outfit as a whole before you start sewing (or shopping).
Tailored womenswear is making a big comeback, and it’s an exciting time for those who love making their own clothes and rocking the latest trends. Follow these tips to make sure you master both the sewing and the wearing of this iconic look.
Any other suggestions to add? Drop them in the comments.