TheSecretCostumier - Bustier

From scratch

A sneak peak…

From scratch

The A-line skirt is finally ready!

    Here comes the A-line skirt that I made a few weeks ago. I used the pattern for the shorter skirt that can be found in the May 2012 issue of Burda Magazine.  TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt Burda photo1 TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt Burda TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt pattern

    We were lucky to have a sunny bank holiday weekend here in London, so I could play dress-up outside. The buttons are not quite on the right place, hence the little hole, but I just couldn’t be bothered to move them as of yet. The grey and denim tops are my sister’s, and the striped crop top is something I cut-off a few weeks ago when I couldn’t find anything to wear for a night out. Have a look!

TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt with grey top TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt with denim shirt TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirt with striped crop top    As you might remember, I had some issues with the look of the inside of the skirt, but since I restarted the whole thing, I managed to make it pretty enough. I used French seams, a faced hem and fabric covered snap-fasteners instead of the buttons suggested by Burda. I am rather pleased with the results, although the hemline is still far from perfect. Maybe next time…

From scratch

1 skirt = 3 easily avoidable mistakes

    I guess the big lesson of this project was to plan my steps ahead…and I don’t mean the outfit ideas. I bought this fabric a year ago, while  I was attending a sewing course in Budapest, for about £2. I was planning to make a skater dress from it (that’s the basic idea every time I randomly buy fabric 😉 )  but 2 weeks ago, inspired by the amazing (& waaaay too short) sewing competition/series on BBC, The Great British Sewing Bee, and by some of these images below, I started sewing this skirt from Burda.

TheSecretCostumier - A-line skirtsImage sources:1., 2., 3.

    It could have been finished in a couple of hours, as it is a relatively easy pattern, consisting of 8 skirt panels and 2 pockets, but I discovered some problems that could have led to having a very “handmade” looking, rather unprofessional garment. So here are my mistakes, they might seem elementary, but I wish someone told me these before.

1Mistake: Choosing a seam finish method AFTER the pieces are sewn together. The Burda patterns have no instructions on seam finishes, so I ended up having to choose between zig-zag stitching or Hong-Kong binding 16 (70 cm long) seam allowances, as folding and stitching the seam allowances worked out to be too thin and curled up.

Solution: French seams. Obviously for this, I had to unpick the whole thing, it took ages, but it was worth it. It looks very professional on the inside, and if you use 1.5 cm seam allowance when cutting the pattern out, you’ll have enough space to comfortably do this.


2Mistake: Making a hem with 4 centimetres of fabric by folding it once, leaves you with loads of excess fabric on the inside. Hemming isn’t supposed to be a big deal, but I’ve learned the difference between turning up a centimetre of your skirt and 4 times that much the hard way, when I ended up trying to tuck all that fabric under the straight line I was supposed to sew on the  the right side, and a mess on the inside.

Solution: Face the hem. I mean cut a facing to the same size as the bottom of the assembled skirt, and sew it on wrong sides together, just as you would on a neckline. If you use a zig-zag stitch to finish the seam on the facing, and measure it properly, you will end up with an even and neat hem inside out, and the top-stitching will be no problem either. (I was trying to be way too pedant, so used a single fold here, and ended up with not so perfect results, but I guess I can live with that.)



Mistake: Not enough thread to finish up a project. This is a no brainer, I know, but if you “impulse buy” a piece of fabric and some thread together, you might end up making something totally different out of it than what you had in mind at the time of purchase, and end up with less thread than needed. Honestly, finding out that my regular fabric shop doesn’t have any thread even close to this shade, half way through sewing, was anything but fun.

Solution: Uhm…Make sure you have enough thread before you start a project?! Of course you can cheat a little if you can’t find more matching thread by using any other colour on hand for seams that will be hidden (like the inner seams of the French seams), so that you can leave enough matching thread for the decorative or visible stitches.

The skirt is now ready, I’m just waiting for the sun to return, so that I can take it out and show you and the World the result, so watch this space!


From scratch

Inspiration #1: That Dior dress

It all started a few months ago when I discovered the remnants box at the Rolls & Rems in Lewisham. I found over 2 meters of this beautiful floral chiffon for £4.50. I wanted to make a dress that was not too girly, but I couldn’t imagine using a minimal pattern either, so I just ignored it until I came across this Dior dress from the 2012 RTW Spring-Summer collection.

I was going to use a nude colour for the bodice part, but could not find any see through chiffon that matched my skin tone, so I decided to pick something striking instead, like…red.

I do feel a little bad about shamelessly copying the design (“shamelessly” if it turns out well, obviously), but I do have a few points to calm my guilt:

  1.  I make it for myself, not for sale;
  2. Great painters learned the techniques by copying their predecessors;
  3. It. Is. Hard. Work.

It really is hard to sew the chiffon as it frays within seconds in my hands, and the bias binding that I chose frays too. That must be the punishment, I guess. I chose a Burda pattern that is really simple, and has an interesting dart on the bodice and pretty little sleeves, although I just realised a HUGE difference between the pattern I’m using and the original dress: the original is made of a single front and back piece, with no seams attaching the sleeves. That makes a big difference as mine will have more design details showing through… I will (have to) do tons of hand sewing, as I decided to go with the hand rolled solution to finish the neckline and sleeves. I haven’t figured out yet how to attach the top part, but it will possibly be done by some more hand sewing.TheSecretCostumier - Inspiration: That Dior dress

The new pledge that comes with making this dress (which I have no idea what shoes to wear  with?!) is that I will sew at least 15 minutes a day (as suggested by Sarai Mitnick @ Coletterie), so I should be done with it by the time temperature rises above 20 ºC here in London. Just kidding, I will definitely finish it before August! 😉

Image sources:,

From scratch

Dream coat turned real

Long time no sewing! There is a good reason for that though. I gave up my life in Budapest, resigned from my comfortable Administrator position, waved goodbye (for the 100th time) to my friends and off I came back to London – for good. I brought only my most cherished clothes with me, so my cute Primark winter coat (that was a plan B last year) didn’t make it here.

Since the weather turned chilly over a month ago I started planning THE DREAM coat after I saw this pattern in the September issue of Burda. I was planning on making a coat in a similar fabric that’s in the magazine but in black, but ended up buying this grey wool one, as it looked the best in my price range.TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned RealThe pattern did not prove to be a tricky one until I got to the neck part, obviously. Unfortunately I did not quite master it as there is still something weird going on there, but I was way too lazy to take everything apart and after working on it over a one month period I decided to just line the coat and use it as it is. I need to make a belt from the remaining fabric or get a similar leather one, as I do not want to put buttons on it as suggested by the pattern.TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned Real TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned Real TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned Real TheSecretCostumier - Dream Coat Turned RealI wanted a coat that looked like a vintage men’s coat and I definitely succeeded with this as the coat is a wee bit big and feels just like I took it from my grandpa’s wardrobe… So here it is, the first coat that I’ve ever made (and the last for at least a year for sure)!

From scratch

The birth of a(nother) backless dress

Even though there is nothing easier to wear and make than a dress, I constantly find myself redesigning the ones I sew from scratch so that they turn out to be sexy, but VERY-hard-to-put-together backless dresses.

I got this blue fabric to make harem pants of it, but soon realized that:

  1.  there is a reason why I don’t have any navy blue trousers;
  2.  it would look cheap made of this wrinkled fabric.

So I took some paper with me to the sewing class that I’m taking (maybe more on this later?) and copied an extremely simple dress pattern from one of the Burdastyle magazines lying around. It was simple as it only consists of 5 major parts (2 of them are the squares that make the skirt up).

Image source: Burda Magazine 2010/11

But how does a rather boring classic dress turn out to be a hopefully head turning backless dress one might ask…

Well, once you try it on you just start playing with it. You cinch in the waist here, pull the skirt up there, and the next thing you know you’ve replaced the zipper with an elastic band and cut out the back part almost completely. Obviously the fact that the zip broke the moment I tried to pull it up speeded up this process.TheSecretCostumier - backless dress previewAt least I knew it then and there that there is no way I am using another zipper in this dress, and probably saved myself a lot of time as it is very unlikely to arrange a zip in a way that it can hold up the upper part of the dress from below my waist. Or so I think with my very basic engineering skills.