A couple of months ago, I decided to take a beginner’s shoemaking class just to see how difficult it is to create a pair of shoes from scratch. I now have my answer: It is not at all difficult!
Caveat: Although there is nothing terribly difficult about the process, it should be noted that it is incredibly time consuming. Materials and labor costs can add up very quickly. In addition, those who do not have some sort of sewing or pattern-making background may find it hard at first to wrap their minds around the process of draping the pattern pieces and understanding how they go together.
The materials used for the upper are tweed and lambskin leather. I clearly have an obsession with both of those materials.
The bows were handcrafted with the same tweed material as the upper.
In case you were wondering: they don’t actually fit. I draped the pattern off a standard size 7.5 last (the shoe equivalent of a dress form) and I generally take a size 7.5 in shoes. I was not at all surprised when these ended up being roomy. I have extremely narrow heels, high arches and bony feet, so I often have trouble filling out shoes.
So far, I find that I really enjoy the craft, and plan on taking more classes. I will continue to work on standard shoe lasts until I’m ready to start crafting shoes for myself. For that, I will have to get a last custom made to my feet size. That is something I will eventually look into doing.
There is something unexpectedly delightful about pairing leather with tweed. It is like pairing two unlikely foods and getting a serendipitous explosion of flavors that complement each other harmoniously. Kind of like eating cream cheese with jelly (on a bread roll). In fact, I happen to think that cream cheese is jelly’s soulmate. (Sorry, peanut butter.)
Materials Used: Leather (Shell & Piping), Silk Charmeuse (Lining) Design By: Tailor Made
Pattern Drafted/Draped By: Tailor Made and Joy Construction By: Tailor Made
Materials Used: Silk Tweed Design By: Joy Pattern Drafted/Draped By: Joy Constructed By: Joy
This look was not in our initial design line-up. Instead, it is a byproduct of several last-minute design changes. Originally, the leather vest was supposed to be a leather jacket with long sleeves. We nixed the jacket idea, because we were not confident we would be able to design and sew an entire leather jacket (both of us never having worked with leather before). The tweed shorts were also meant to be paired with a different top.
I’ve come to realize that when designing pieces in a collection, one needs to embrace the possibility of making adjustments and changes. Not all of the designs will come out exactly as they appear in your head. Sometimes you may end up with an even more beautiful product by being adaptable and flexible.
Background: The University of Chicago Festival of the Arts is a week-long celebration of the arts on the campus. The student-run organization, FOTA, provides funding to students to work on creative and artistic projects and performances that are then showcased for the duration of the week. The Festival of the Arts opens with a launch party and fashion show which features the work of student designers.
I participated as a student designer for the annual FOTA fashion shows during my tenure as an undergrad. After graduating, I continued to partake in these shows by collaborating with my friend, Joy, who is still a student at the university.
We created a collection titled “Lilac and Leather”, which focuses on the interplay of soft and structural elements through the use of (p)leather, wool, and georgette.
From left to right: modeled by Lauren C., Heather Y., Katie B., Kat L., and Jenna B.
These are my two favorite looks!
Joy doing Heather Y.’s make-up.
Flowers from our model, Heather Y.
Don’t worry, Heather. We made good use of those tulips.
You can also find more details and pictures of the collection on Joy’s website here.
I once asked my sewing instructor, “Why do you want to teach people how to sew?”
He replied, “So you all can go out there and force a little bit of yourselves upon the world.”
Like many, I am drawn to the power of self-expression through dress. More specifically, I think that there is no more impactful way to express oneself than to be involved in the creation and construction process of the pieces with which you chose to define your style.
This blog will follow the development one’s personal style and document the pieces that I create for myself (or for others) in pursuit of that.