$9 Couture Course

As I was listlessly shlumping through the grocery store yesterday, (because I’m a sewing enthusiast, not a cooking enthusiast) I spotted a new edition of the “Best of Threads Magazine: Designer Techniques” series tucked among the quiltin’ and craftin’ magazines.


As I leafed through it, my eyes bugged out, because it’s FULL of great articles by, first of all, the two Godmothers of Haute Couture I wrote about recently, Susan Khalje and Claire Shaeffer, as well as  numerous other articles about vintage designers and their techniques, all from the Threads Magazine archives.

For example, there’s an article by Susan Khalje giving the play-by-play of her method of constructing Chanel-style jackets, which I used in my research to construct my jackets:


The magazine also includes articles by Susan about making muslins and creating her version of the couture little black dress. (Note: if you’re thinking of making a Chanel-style jacket using Susan’s method, I would hold out until later in the year when she releases her video series.)

There’s a large section about various vintage designers and their techniques, including articles about Scaasi, Galanos, and Valentina, all written by couture expert Claire Shaeffer.


My favorites were two articles about how Madeleine Vionnet and Madame Gres manipulated fabric to create their geometric designs, which included drawings of how Madame Gres’ jersey wraps were constructed:


Let me tell you, I wanted to skip making dinner and run into my studio to muslin the red wrap made with one seam on the right.

Throughout the magazine there are pages of clearly-illustrated sewing tips demonstrating vintage and haute couture construction and finishing methods. So worth the $9 price tag! And it made my trip to the grocery store bearable!

The magazine can be ordered from the Threads website, in either hard copy or PDF download form here: (Best of Threads Designer Techniques: Make It Couture). Check it out!

Before I left Boston, I did a little window shopping on Newbury Street as I was on my to Starbucks to get pastries for breakfast (avoiding the grocery store again). Valentino had just been renovated, and there were a number of interesting fabrics and details in the window:



Love that embroidered fabric. And check this out:


A little black dress trimmed at the neckline and cuffs with multicolored feathers!

In the window of the Italian luxury store Loro Piana, they were showing a short fur Chanel-style jacket, which I guess is what you wear when it gets chilly on the yacht:


In the 70s we used to call that style a “chubby.”

The outpost of the upscale Swiss brand Akris, known for it’s simple designs made from luxury fabrics, had this pretty black knit dress and some of their classic bags in the window:


Chanel was getting festive with a pink boucle 2.55 bag crafted out of tweed (how long is that going to last?):


as well as, shall we call it a “bedazzled” 2.55 bag covered in crystals, along with a plastic cuff bracelet with the “Double C” logo in faux pearls:


Give me a break, Karl.

Also on this high-end street is a new branch of the a vintage-repro company called “Bettie Paige,” named after the 50s cult pin-up. It seems like a strange place for this store, but they do have some cute designs:


Perfect if you need costumes in a hurry for a revival of the musical “State Fair.”

But soon it was time to pack up the car and head for the Martha’s Vineyard ferry. When I got to the island, I saw that the roses were blooming:


The barn swallows have two nests under the eaves this year:


The peach tree we thought had bitten the dust was miraculously budding fruit:


And my summer sewing space was there, patiently waiting for me to unpack:


14 thoughts on “$9 Couture Course

  1. I have the older edition of Designer Techniques and loads of great info. Will check out this version to see if there is anything new. Enjoy your summer in the Vineyard. We spent many wonderful times there and Nantucket. Any fabric shopping or did you bring a stash with you?

    • Hi Mary, I haven’t seen the older version, so I’m not sure how much is overlap. There’s lots of detailed info you don’t see in more basic tutorials. Fun reading for people like us!
      There are plenty of crafters on the island but not much fabric shopping, so my stash came with me on the boat. Just as well as I have too much!

  2. That’s an interesting idea, trapping yourself with your stash on an island…okay, not a desert island, and they do have mail delivery from internet shopping, but you will be strong! Stalwart!

    Threads has always done right by analyzing designer couture by vivisection (or should that be dissection?). I still have the Armani jacket articles of years back. I have been meaning to find the first Designer Techniques as this edition is so jam packed o’goodness. Excellent beach reading!

    • Okay, I’ll confess. When I got here there were three mail-orders of fabric waiting, two vintage pieces by Claire McCardell from eBay, and a box of Japanese sewing supplies from the Sew Maris shop on Etsy.com, including the hand sewing needles that Susan Khalje recommends. So yeah, I have a little stash problem.

  3. Thanks for the Threads tip! I love Threads–wish it came out every day. And wait–you can buy Claire McCardell fabric on ebay? I never thought to look.

    • Hi Lynn! I agree about Threads, and I’m happy that they’re committed to demystifying designer sewing techniques.
      The McCardells I was referring to are actual articles of vintage clothing, not fabric. At some point I’ll post about the “Claire McCardell Museum” I have stuffed in my closet.

  4. I have the 2011 version of Designer Techniques. There could be some overlap (Claire’s article on Chanel jacket, and an article on YSL) but for the most part it looks like different material. Enjoy the island!

    • Hi Lizzie, I looked to see if Threads is still selling the older version, but apparently they’re not. This one actually doesn’t have Claire’s Chanel articles, (even though her jacket’s on the cover) but it is full of great stuff.

  5. Your grocery store sounds like more fun than mine… I have been so tempted to pick up that issue of Designer Techniques, but so far have not. Mainly because I purchased the Threads Archives CD – and I’m sure all the same info is already there. HOWEVER, it would be nice to have it already cherry-picked for me, wouldn’t it? Love the looks of your summer sewing room – hope it’s messy soon!

    • I do like having this info in magazine format, so I can lie in bed and read it! As for my sewing space…I have to keep it neat or my semi-OCD husband will “rearrange it” for me and I’ll never find anything again!

    • I was amazed to find it at store on the island. Now we’re waiting for the air temps to pass 75F and the water temp to pass 60F. Then it might actually feel like summer!

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