Monday, May 6, 2013

Left Bank: Bohemian Chic

Sonia Rykiel inspired cashmere dresses

Saint Germain des Pres, situated in the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank of the city, is best known as the intellectual neighborhood of Paris. Here is where you will find monumental cafes like Au Deux Maggots, Café de Flore (haunts made famous and Chez Lipp (the café/restaurant of France's elitist politicians) nestled amongst art galleries and shops. Though the neighborhood has been seriously gentrified by the presence of giant luxury firms (Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Dior and the like) in the past decade, there are still reminders of an era past including Sonia Rykiel, who is the area's best known fashion icon.
Rykiel was made famous by her signature black knit dresses, striped tops and sweaters dotted with words and rhinestone studs. What was amazing about her body-skimming knits is how women of all sizes looked great in them. If you were thin, you looked good. If you were curvy, you looked even better! Though Ms. Rykiel herself is no longer at the helm, her house goes on under the direction of her daughter Natalie. The near all black collections have gone the way of pastel wovens and floral prints, though there is still a generous helping of black knit dresses to keep the most diehard SR fans coming back for more.

Today's posting is a throw-back to earlier times when St. Germain was THE hangout of bohemian intellectuals. It tells a Rykiel story of artists and philosophers, of poets and of course, anti-establishment style. I used the sleeves of an old, moth eaten cashmere sweater to make the outfits featured on this page. I "built" the garments right on the doll in the opening picture.
The doll on the left of the top picture is wearing essentially a tube top with separate pull up sleeves and a fitted skirt. Wrap the knit around the doll, stretching slightly over her curves and pin then stitch down the back. The knit stretches sufficiently to remove easily from the doll without deforming it. The sleeves are separate tubes I wrapped around the arms. They are stitched under the arms. Again, the knit should stretch enough to enable you to remove them. And finally there is the skirt, made in exact the same way. I've fitted it to the doll to create a pegged silhouette. As far as the letters or decoration, use glue-on rhinestones with flat bottoms. You can also use a silver metallic paint (in a tube). Squeeze out drop by drop, the name or emblem of your choice.
The doll on the right side is wearing a basic black dress. You can use a sheath dress with sleeves. All I did here was to create a "donut" using knit that I pinched randomly in spots and stitched in place to give the illusion of the tube falling into drapes around the neck. I've positioned it to fall gently off one shoulder.

On the next set of photos, the figure to the left is wearing a one shouldered shell with a tube over it. These are very easy to create. Inasmuch as these are bohemian looks, I have not finished off the edges. I place a piece of knit (folded in half) over the doll's body and roughly cut a one shouldered silhouette. It's just a question of wrapping it around the doll. A bit of Velcro holds the shoulder together and another piece of Velcro holds the top on the side.
Over this she wears a cocoon inspired by the Japanese movement of the early 90's. It is a tube whereby the doll slides her arms in each side.
Take a rectangle of knit, fold in half and mark with a pin. Then open the rectangle out and place, centered over the doll. Mark the outer extremities of her shoulders.  I then use pins to 1) mark the width of the doll from shoulder to shoulder and 2) to trace the (diagonal) direction of the arms.

Check to make sure your pins fall symmetrically across the body. (Fold in half to make sure the pins are placed equally from the center pin. Now fold this rectangle in half. Cut. away the excess from the top of the arms. Then "pin" baste (pin along your sewing line) from shoulder out to each in. At this point you can put this on the doll and check to make sure she can check for fit. Stitch. Then turn under and tack down the center of the opening. Turn right side out. Adjust so that the seam falls in the center and press. When worn on the body, this garment falls into a beautiful drape at the back.

The next garment is also super simple, involving two squares stitched at the top, leaving enough space to allow her head to pass through. Allow enough space on each side of the square to allow her arms to pass through. Again, do check to make sure your garment is symmetrical from side to side. The garment will fall asymmetrically down from the shoulders which is exactly the point.

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