This year I’ll be participating in the Discarded to Divine charity event! Put on by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the event will be hosted by the de Young Museum, where there will be an exhibit of the entries on April 12, 2013. This year’s inspirational theme is Girl With a Pearl Earring, which will also be on display at the  museum as part of the Vermeer exhibit.  

discarded to divine

Yesterday I picked up my fabric from the SVDP Wellness Center, which will be the recipient of the event’s fundraising.

“The Ozanam Wellness Center began in 2009 to more effectively and compassionately meet the needs of the most vulnerable individuals in our City who are struggling with addiction and mental health issues. By combining the “best practices” of spirituality and clinical methods, we are addressing the whole person who is suffering, and empowering our guests to make positive changes for ongoing recovery. The overarching vision of the Wellness Center is to foster right relationship: justice, love and peace among all who pass through our doors, with a special focus on those who are struggling with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol and mental health issues.”

I ended up choosing this pale seafoam faille, and was thrilled to get about 15 yards of it along with at least the same amount of vibrant chlorophyll green shantung silk.  The donor was an event planner who used them to decorate spaces, hence the extravagant amounts.  This will allow me to do something really spectacular, since I can’t generally afford to buy nice fabrics in those amounts. 

seafoam silk faille

The faille looks a little bluer than it actually is–has a more minty tone in real life.

I don’t want to create a fully historical garment or interpret the theme too literally though.  The look I’m going for is late 1950’s early 1960’s vintage–very tailored dressmaking with the hair up in a twist, opera gloves, and some kind of beaded clutch.

At first I thought I’d do something similar to this–double breasted with a stand away neckline, but full length.  The lining would have been the emerald silk, and I considered doing an emerald gown underneath.  I wanted to do emerald beading all over the front of the coat and over one of the shoulders.

But then I decided that I wanted to do something extreme with tons of volume.  

faille evening coat

This golden YSL opera coat from the collection of Mrs. Thomas L. Kempner already looks like it could have been inspired by the painting.  It’s quite similar to what I am imagining for the outerwear.

 Except I think I’m going to do it with 3/4 length sleeves that are very loose at the hem, as opposed to fitting closely around the forearm. The fullness will be created using cartridge pleats, since that’s what’s on the back of her garment in the painting.

Depending on the gown, I might even do a funky coordinating hat like the one the man in the red jacket has on in this other Vermeer painting called The Procuress.  Then the look would be more mid-late sixties.

Wait…is he grabbing her boob?  Ooh.  Well yes, apparently he is–Wikipedia tells me that this is a brothel scene.  And I learned that there are not one but two women in this painting. 

dutch brothel scene

Who knew that Discarded to Divine would lead an education on the popularity of Dutch Bordeeltjes in 17th century?  Here’s a particularly creepy German example from the 15th century.

german brothel scene

Here are some rough sketches that I have so far.

You want to know something crazy?  I made this beaded trim ages ago, and I bought the lace to go with it, but I never figure out exactly what to use it for.  Having this on hand makes me feel ahead of the game.  Unfortunately this is a terrible terrible photo.  I’ll have to take one with the good camera.

beaded fan trim

Here’s a cartridge pleat sample that I did last night.

discarded to divine

And an experiment for the cowl on the coat

faille cowl coat

If you can’t tell, I’m super excited about this project, and since the semester just ended, I’ll be able to devote the kind of attention to it that it deserves. 

But the best part?  If you’re a designer anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area, you can do it too!  They have some really awesome donations of fabric and clothing just waiting to be turned into something fabulous.  Because it’s still early in the process, it isn’t all picked over.  There’s a bolt of orange cotton velvet, a bolt of something striped like a pink seersucker but heavier and without the bubbling, huge bags of fleece scraps in several different colors, and much more.

Sally Rosen is the contact person (415-552-5561 X306), and you’ll need to call her and make an appointment to go search through what they have set aside for the event.  I know I posted the link already at the top, but here it is again. Hours of the wellness center (Howard between 7th and 8th in the city) are 9am-4pm Monday through Friday.  Do it for a great cause!!!


Accepting the fact that my website is perpetually under construction, I felt it prudent to create a post showcasing some of my more exciting work. 

My strongest professional capabilities are in bridal and eveningwear.  I enjoy the level of diligence and extravagance allowed by the category.

This made-to-measure gown was created completely from concept for Marilee Talkington, a fiery actress with a singular vision for her black-box theater wedding.   The skirt texture, inspired by tropical leaves and flowers, was created from 8 yards of silk organza stitched onto tulle and layered over crepeback satin.  The fully boned bodice is the same satin ruched onto panels of cotton drill. 

offbeat bride red

My other great love is dance costuming.  I find that ballet and bellydance present the most opportunities for creating finely detailed works of art. 

This fully wired and strung classical tutu is made for the professional lead ballerina.  Basque and bodice are satin covered coutil. English cotton bobbinnette knickers support 12 layers of point cut hand pleated tutu net (not tulle) ruffles.  Corset and top-skirt feature black chantilly lace, black point d’esprit, hundreds of black diamond rhinestones, and vintage glass buttons.  You can see and read about the tutu in progress in this post, which I was recently surprised to find has more than 3900 views as of yet!

classical ballet tutu

One of the highlights of my career was designing and creating several key looks for Cari Borja’s runway show on the Gala Night of 2006 San Francisco Fashion Week.  The Gala Night celebration also featured runway shows by bay area couturiers Lily Samii and Colleen Quen.  Cari’s unorthodox construction methods turn “proper” sewing on it’s head and, over the course of my time with her, was a liberating experience in terms of technique.  This gown was created with several circular layers of point d’esprit and printed peau de soie.

San Francisco Fashion

 Here’s another look from the same runway show but at a different venue.

wool flounce dress


This trumpet silhouette illusion gown was created for a traditional coastal North Carolina ceremony.   The cotton/rayon bengaline gown features beaded lace hand applied to netting and finished with a silk satin sash.  All crinoline and support layers are built into the gown.

Of course, my portfolio is in no way complete without showing at least a detail one of my bedlahs, the matching bra and belt sets for bellydancers.

Bra and belt bases are first covered with silk dupioni and then lavishly adorned with trims and hand-beaded fringes.   Precious stones, czech glass, delicate beads, and Swarovski rhinestones catch the light, accentuate shimmies, and give extra impact to pops and locks.

raks sharki costume

I’m also available for simpler tasks such as alterations, but I think you can see that my more substantial talents involve one-of-a-kind pieces that are graceful, feminine, and luxurious.

If you, or someone you know is looking for something truly spectacular please feel free to pass along the link to this post. 

Resume and references are available upon request.


bridal laces
Lately I’ve been having more bridal inquiries than usual, and lots of these ladies are asking for lace.  
With the intention of familiarizing my current and future clients with the most popular bridal laces, I’m putting together a short picture glossary along with some images of gowns made from them.
(uh LEN sahn)
The distinguishing feature of this lace is the fine cording that is applied to the outlines of the motif.  Although still delicate, this fabric has more body and structure than something like chantilly.
alencon lace
alencon lace bridal gown
Alencon example by Jim Hjelm

Brussels Lace
Very delicate elaborate lace, often lots of raised work like what you see in the centers of the flowers. You don’t see this much on modern gowns–it is very old fashioned.
brussels lace
brussels lace
brussels lace gown
A very fine airy lace, usually with lots of detail and elaborate motifs.  Like Alencon, Chantilly often (although not always) has a cord outlining the motifs, but it is much more delicate.  This lace pairs quite nicely with other airy fabrics like tulle, chiffon, and georgette.  It is my personal favorite out of all the laces.
chantilly lace
chantilly lace
chantilly lace bridal gown
Both chantilly examples are by Rosa Clara

Duchesse Lace
Duchesse is supposedly the cheaper version of Brussels lace, but I can’t always tell the difference to tell you the truth.  The joins are of cruder constructon or something like that.  It has lots of open space, as opposed to the tighter net background of chantilly and alencon. 
Kate Middleton kept popping up when I was looking for gown examples.  But I think that’s because she is a duchess, not because her gown had duchesse lace.
duchesse lace
duchesse lace cape
Not considered a “true” lace because it is worked on a fabric background, eyelet is typically made from cotton. Best suited to casual outdoor weddings, it is also a popular choice for flower girl dresses.
cotton eyelet dress
 Guipure Lace also called Venise Lace
(Gee pee oor…I think…)
*Edit* according to my friend, it is pronounced guy-pure

Guipure is much heavier and more textural than the other laces and as such is often used on gowns for winter weddings.  Often called Venise lace (no, I did not misspell that although I have seen it spelled Venice too), there is no net or mesh background.  It comes in a huge variety of designs and motifs and is also popular as appliques instead of fabric. 
guipure venise lace
venise lace bridal
There are some gorgeous examples of gowns that use venise lace, but if you don’t watch out… 
Hey girl, 1982 called and wants her dress back.
Ugly 1980s Wedding
Schiffli Lace 
(SHIF uh lee)
Lace pattern is embroidered onto a net backing fabric.  The patterns in the other laces are created when the lace itself is created.  It is particularly nice as an overlay fabric on top of tulle.  There is some ambiguity when it comes to schiffli lace–the term is used in several different ways.  It is often referred to as tulle lace or organza lace because these are almost always the backing fabrics.

Additionally, if you google schiffli lace, you will see lots of references to something called chemical lace, and you will see photos of what looks like venise lace.  Chemical lace is created by embroidering with one type of fiber onto a fabric of another type of fiber.  Then the fabric background is chemically disolved leaving only the embroidery behind. 

schiffli lace
I thought that Kate Middleton’s gown was schiffli.  It certainly has that look from a distance.  But according to Wikipedia the bodice design was created by stitching lace appliques onto the netting.
“The lace bodice design was handmade using a technique that originated in Ireland in the 1820s called Carrickmacross, which involved cutting out rose detailing (symbolising England), thistles (Scotland), daffodils (Wales), and shamrocks (Ireland), individually applying them to the ivory silk tulle.” –Wikipedia
 There are of course, dozens more types of lace.  These are just the basics of bridal lace vocabulary.

You might also want to have a look at my post on Bridal Necklines.