TheSecretCostumier - Birthday dress main

The birthday dress

    You might have guessed by now, I’m one of those crazy people who get irrationally excited about their birthday. It’s not that I like to be celebrated, and I don’t particularly like getting gifts (unless it’s for no reason), but I like to treat my birthday as my special day. The one day of the year when I notice the small things too and tend to remember most of it even years later. It’s also that one day when I get to be as overdressed as I wish without feeling bad about it. ;) So this year the plan is to get this vintage dress out of the box, make it into a pretty little cocktail dress, go to Frank’s to watch the sun go down, and go home dancing?!

TheSecretCostumier - Birthday dress it is

     I bought this crazy 80′s grandma’s summer dress a few years ago in a charity shop in Budapest. I really loved the print and was planning on making something unexpected from it, but have always been too scared to cut into it. Practically it is still intact, but the other day in the middle of my 18 hour-long procrastination marathon, I picked the dress up and decided to just go (relatively) simple and make something out of it. Right after this, I sat down to sketch how it’s going to look, then one thing led to another and I made the below little illustration in a mere 8 hours.

     I probably could have actually finished the dress in that time, but what the hell, I’ve learned how to colour the dress bit with a pattern instead of a solid colour in Photoshop, so now I am basically unstoppable when it comes to future garment planning. I might as well just give up sewing and draw clothes on my super realistic little body from now on… Anyway, here is the master plan:

TheSecretCostumier - Birthday dress design

   I think I will use the same pattern as for the backless dress from Burdastyle, and I might take the chance to try to use boning to hold the whole thing tight on my bust. I probably have to ditch the buttons on the back altogether and use an invisible zip instead, for similar reasons. I already feel a little less excited now that there’s a plan and all, but one day I’ll surely make it!to be continued

Image of Frank’s found here.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect
From scratch, Ready & waiting

Week 2: Defining a core style

Looking at the latest (12th!) addition of the Wardrobe Architect project over at the Coletterie, and the pace at which I’m doing this, I’m thinking about figuring out a capsule wardrobe for fall/winter instead of this coming summer. Which would also mean that I could carry on sewing mindlessly whatever pops up in my mind on any given day. That would be crazy good. Or just crazy… So here are the questions I’ve been thinking about in the past few weeks since Week 1 and Week Zero.

When you are wearing your favourite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy, poised, powerful, etc.)?

When wearing my favourite clothes I feel comfortable, confident and cool, sometimes with a feeling of  not-too-apparent  sexiness… if that makes sense.

When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

On those occasions I mostly feel like I’ve tried too hard, or I feel like I look sloppy, way too boyish with no sex appeal to my taste, or far from being a grown up/too old for my age.

Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

I guess I’m like a child in the candy shop when it comes to clothes. The shiny, dreamy, exotic pieces catch my eyes, and the women who can make them look like they are perfectly normal for daily wear are my heroines. These four, for example:

TheSecretCostumier - Catherine Baba

TheSecretCostumier - Frida

TheSecretCostumier- Alexa Chung

TheSecretCostumier - Carrie Bradshaw

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

Although these two styles are the most inspiring for me right now, I just couldn’t wear them head to toe.

Etno – I love the colours, the materials, the close to nature feeling about it, but I’m a city girl at heart and it feels like being in somebody else’s skin most of the times I try it.

Minimal – I really love the simplicity and the emphasis on clean shapes, construction and colours, but in reality I feel like those clothes were designed with athletic bodies in mind, and I just seem to be curved at all the wrong places.

Look over your answers from last week on history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location, and body. List at least 15 words that you associate with your answers. Think about descriptive words, moods, and feelings you associate with these things:

Unique    Comfortable    Casual    Playful    Sensual    Urban    Cosy   Sultry    Multifunctional    Easy    Cool    Carefree   Quirky

Are there other words you would like to add to this list? What other words describe your core style?

Nope. It was hard enough to come up with those 13. :)

Look over the answers to all of the questions above. If you had to narrow your list to only 3-5 words to describe you, which words would you choose?

Comfortable    Playful    Sensual    Quirky

Visual exercise
 Collect 15-20 images that represent these 3-5 words for you. You could create a pinterest board, a folder on your computer, a moodboard, or a collage. Be creative and have fun!

Next week (which could be in August, but I’m on holiday now, so do watch this space as anything can happen ;) ), I’ll be exploring shapes and silhouettes that usually work for me, and put together imaginary outfits from those shapes.

Image sources from top left: 1, 2, 3456, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12131415, 16, 17, 1819202122232425, 26. 
Catherine Baba images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Frida Kahlo images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Alexa Chung images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Carrie Bradshaw images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
From scratch

Pleather is the new leather

   Here is a skirt I made a few weeks ago. I bought a piece of faux leather, or pleather (just to be annoying), from a remnants box without a clear idea about what to do with it. All I knew was that I used to have a circle skirt of a similar material that I loved and wore so much, that all that love started to show in a not so lovely way. So making another one was a logical step. But if you’ve read anything on this blog so far, you must know that I rarely make simple stuff because:

  1. I could buy that in a shop;
  2. I would save myself from oh, so many challenges!

Which is why I went with this pattern from BurdaStyle. ( If I ever decide to make a jacket again, I’ll go with the pattern on the picture.)

2Image source: BurdaStyle

     I think the skirt looks stunning (in Burdastyle) and it actually wasn’t difficult to put together at all. Except for one thing: I only realised the front is made of two pieces after I was ready to start cutting the back, which meant that I ended up having enough fabric for the front pieces only. You must have guessed by now, no I did not find the  same fabric for the back, just a close enough match that is shinier and lighter than the rest, but it really isn’t that apparent…or so I say.


    The pleats on the front were a little tricky at first, but all in all it’s a very straight forward pattern. I’m not even bothered by having a simpler back than the front, and I really love the big pockets! I’ve added about 7 centimeters to the hem, which makes it more office friendly for my taste, but it drapes a little different from the original one, and guess what, the faux leather is sticky! I intended to wear it with a crop top a during the summer, but there is no way I’m letting that waistband stick to my stomach in the probably C°20+ weather! Oh and the faux leather on my bike seat and this skirt are like magnets, which makes for a ride full of swearing, so this skirt has some serious persuasion to do, before it becomes a daily wear…


TheSecretCostumier - Machine sewn buttonhole failure

From scratch

The aftermath of my first attempt to sew a buttonhole…

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect
From scratch, Ready & waiting

Week 1: Making style more personal

Dear friends, curious old classmates, fellow pedestrians, if you ever wondered why I dress the way I dress, this post might help you find out! I am waaaaay behind the Wardrobe Architect project, but it’s better late than never, right? So here it goes! (Please excuse my excessive use of brackets (I do apologise (for the personal photo album too.).).)

How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystallize? Have they changed over the years, and why?

As you can see I had killer style when I was in kindergarten. :) I also remember being pretty happy in the clothes my parents picked out for me and my sister, (my dad was the fashionista in the family back in the days…). As a teenager, I guess I just wanted to feel comfortable in my clothes and with my body and not stand out from the crowd even more (I am not the typical Hungarian looking girl, you see). It basically meant covering up as much of my body as possible, in fact that photo of the blue sundress is a rare one. It was taken in Athens and it was extremely hot and that was probably the only time I worn something like that since I was a child. When I moved to London I experienced what’s it like not to be bothered with what other people might think about me for the first time in my life, so I started experimenting with my looks. In the past 2 years I think I’ve managed to be more conscious about wearing the pieces I feel best in, although I sometimes feel like I dress a little old for my age.

How does your philosophy, spirituality, or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?

Although I find many “green” movements rather questionable, I feel very strongly against wasting anything. I would like to explore more ways to reuse existing resources and reducing the clutter around me. Having a wardrobe that expands only by adding handmade pieces to it, would be another step for me in moving away from the way too fast high street fashion. When I discovered the magic of buying vintage/charity shop clothing, the most appealing factor was not only the uniqueness of the pieces, but also the fact that you are saving a piece of history by giving it new life.

How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?

I’m half Hungarian and half Nigerian. Although I appreciate my fashionable “heritage”, the well known traditional Hungarian embroidery, and I love the African print fabrics and headwraps worn all over Nigeria, none of these  have inspired me in choosing what to wear in my everyday life…yet! I do find the so called “etno” look desirable on others, but I don’t feel like myself when I occasionally wear an afro during the summer, when I’m too lazy to straighten my hair.

Image sources:  from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in?

I have never dressed according to any subcultural “dress code”, since I never belonged to any such groups. I kind of hate to admit it, but the biggest influence on my style is my sister, who has a flawless style and always inspires me to at least try to be a tad bit more elegant and classy. Although while she likes to dress appropriately to every occasion, I prefer to wear whatever I feel good in.

How do your day to day activities influence your choices?

I stubbornly cycle  e v e r y w h e r e. Come rain or shine, I’ll go by bike. I would like to think it’s not mere stubbornness though, or my hatred of public transport, but a statement I make everyday about not being lazy and doing something no one around me does, something I’ve never thought I could do. Long story short, I need clothes to do all that cycling in. And I don’t mean head to toe lycra obviously, but normal clothes that allow me to move my legs, heavy enough to retain my modesty in the London wind, and won’t be destroyed by a little rain every now and  then.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Activity

Does the place you live inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in?

I am a Londoner now, and even though everybody hates this weather, I kind of love it. I come from a place with four seasons, two rainy ones, one extremely hot and one extremely cold, so I’m happy with the moderate climate and I’ve made peace with the sometimes constant rain too (it really is just water!). This means you can wear pretty much whatever you want, and I bet that’s why London is one of the fashion capitals.

In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

Since I was a teenager I’ve had rather sensitive skin which is actually why I got interested in fashion. I had to find creative ways to hide the problematic areas and show whatever was left. I also turned from alarmingly skinny to healthy, to bigger… and now back to curvy (I guess), but to be honest, my weight has never played as big a part in my wardrobe planning as my skin, even though I wouldn’t mind having leaner legs…and arms, etc. Because of this, I feel most comfortable in flouncy skirts and black tights, high neck- and waistlines, short jackets and I’ve learned to love anything backless. I don’t really like wearing jeans or trousers, anything low-cut and short skirts or dresses that hide my waist, which happens to be the slimmest part of my body.

In the next task I will be making a moodboard based on the the words I associate with the clothes I wear and the way they make me feel, but before I bore the hell out of whoever reads this (thank you guys! ;)), I’ll show you my brand new little pleather skirt (that’s not a typo!).

TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress is ready main2
From scratch

That Dior dress? Finished!

I have a feeling that Dior won’t be suing me after all…

TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress is ready3

     Here it is. I’ve probably spent over 20 hours in total on putting this dress together…and I’m only fine with the result. Not as ecstatic as I’ve expected to be, which is probably due to the fact that it existed as a problem for about a year, then when I figured out how to do it, well…it got boring! It’s unfair from me to say that I’m not even half as much in love with this dress as with the kimono dress, as I have actually worn this already, unlike that one. To be honest, I wore it with a jumper on top, which is pretty cool as I can dress it down, but I have a feeling that there will be hardly any occasions when I’ll feel totally comfortable wearing it without a bra, as I (and Mr Galliano probably) designed it to be worn…

TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress is ready13

    And a little bit about the construction, as it was a struggle, but it turned out well. I’ve learned on my first attempt of making this, that I need a short kimono sleeved bodice pattern so that there are no armhole seams. As I couldn’t find any, I drafted one by modifying a basic sloper. Then I made a muslin from the lightest gauze like fabric out there, which seemed to be a good fit, but the dress was a lot heavier (obviously!?) and felt too loose around my waist. Since I didn’t want to alter the chiffon bodice to avoid further fraying, I decided to insert an elastic band into the waistline, which successfully cinched it in a little. Then I attached the velvet ribbon first from the outside, then from the inside, hiding all the seam allowances neatly.

TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress is ready - details

    The closure on the back of the bodice caused a headache though, as the crocheted thread loop  for the button (a result of the most boring 30 minutes of my life), weakened the fabric. I decided to sew grosgrain ribbons there instead, which seems to be working a lot better.As for the he invisible zipper in the skirt bit, well, it turned out as it should have, pretty invisible. :)

TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress is ready - details5

TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress is ready - details7

    The edges were finished by zig-zag stitching over an embroidery thread then cutting the excess fabric off, which gives the hems some definition, as well as it makes the fabric tear easily (see on the picture of the sleeve below). The floral fabric on the bodice was first basted then hand sewn from the inside of the dress, but it was done in a less than professional way, as I got really impatient by the end of it, as you can imagine.

TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress is readydetails

All in all, I’m happy it’s finished and I hope I’ll get to wear it more!

TheSecretCostumier - The Dior dress is ready - details6

Image sources: Title: Dior dress, background images of the Dior dress:, all other images are mine.
TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect
From scratch, Ready & waiting

Week Zero: Why start building a handmade wardrobe?

     At the beginning of this year, while I was slowly getting ready to plan how to…well, plan a new wardrobe, Sarai at the Coletterie has already started doing that. She came up with a brilliant project, The Wardrobe Architect, which takes you along the steps of dreaming up an ideal wardrobe and realizing those dreams, by analysing shapes, colours, silhouettes and examining how we feel about our bodies wearing the clothes we choose to wear.

      I think if you get a little serious about making your own clothes, sooner or later you come to a stage where you buy less RTW and more fabric. Then you realize that you are making things that are interesting to sew or just pretty, but they don’t quite fit into your existing wardrobe. The next step is the reality check, when you promise not to buy anymore shiny new fabric and to make clothes that will fit well, and will fit well into your lifestyle. That’s where I am right now, and looking at the discussion about the Wardrobe Architect, I am not the only one here.

      I’ve found 3 projects in the past few years that have really inspired me to turn my hobby (sewing, obvs!) into a more useful part of my everyday life, as well as to end the daily struggle to find well fitting, comfortable clothes in my closet that make me feel good about myself and reflect who I think I am.

TheSecretCostumier - makeshift

     Fashion designer and artist, Natalie Purschwitz, decided to get rid of most of her clothing and only wear what she makes for an entire year. This included everything from clothes to underwear, any accessories and even her shoes. I loved the project as it was as much about showcasing her distinctive style daily, as about exploring what works or what’s useful. It also looks at the process/habit of creating every day, not for pleasure or work, but to fulfil the very basic need/urge to dress up appropriately for every occasion. I also felt that it was a strong statement against the fast fashion culture, and it can be viewed as a proof of one’s ability to rely on herself as much as possible. (Images: makeshift)

TheSecretCostumier - Uniform project       

      1 Dress. 1 Month. 1 Cause. Actually it started off with 365 days of wearing the same little black dress by a girl called Sheena Matheiken, “as an exercise in sustainability and a fundraiser to support the Akanksha Foundation— a non-profit organization providing education to underprivileged children living in Indian slums.” In it’s second year, the UP welcomed different girls, different dresses and different charities for month long periods, which made it even more interesting, by providing several views on the challenges of wearing the same dress every day, and the amazingly creative ways to do it.

      The idea of ditching the casual/formal labels and the ability to transform one piece of clothing into something extremely versatile  is the most appealing aspect to me in this project (these dresses can be worn front-to-back, for example!). Being able to wear the same dress for very different occasions, eliminates the need for “special” clothing, which leads to a smaller wardrobe. Which brings us to the last bit of inspiration… (Images: Uniform Project)

TheSecretCostumier - Everything I Have

       When I was a kid I wore one of my pyjamas until only a few threads held the back of the shorts together. When my mum binned it, I took it out and kept it under my pillow as long as I could… I guess that’s what they call an emotional connection to objects, right? That’s probably how I ended up with a wardrobe of which 78% of the clothing only gets worn less than 5 times a year!  I know that number, because last summer I took a picture of every item of clothing and shoes I own, before we moved flats. I was inspired by an artist called Simon Evans and his project where he photographed everything he had. This is another reflection on consumerism and I think cataloguing your possessions is a great way to turn unused objects into memories and make the decision to give it to someone who would happily use it. (Images: on the left : my own photos, one on the right: Stylecouch’s Blog)

Here is my plan of action, before I start planing my future closet by following the Wardrobe Architect project:

  1. I will assess my existing wardrobe, select the useful/rarely used pieces and sell/donate the latter. (Before the end of February!)
  2. I will stop buying any new clothing AND fabric without a plan, and will keep reminding myself of the consequences of such actions… (Until the end of 2014, at least.)
  3. I will build my new wardrobe around the existing pieces and will try to design a few multifunctional pieces.

Is there anyone else as excited about following a route to an organized wardrobe, or do you already have a good system for  that?