The Versace leotard. Eat your heart out Liz Hurley – Sewing for Sink the Pink’s Glynfamous.

And so I ended up sewing a leotard for Sink the Pink’s February show, Fashion Fart. For a few days last month my living room was filled with 5 bags of drag and the beautiful Glynfamous. I bloody well adore him, heart of gold and as cute as he was a hundred years ago when we met (in the late 90s). We started with the idea of tearaway trousers and a Lagerfeld homage but settled on That Liz Hurley Versace Dress. You know, the one with the safety pins. A couple of texts later and we ended up turning the dress into a leotard. It was a much better idea. More room for movement and dancing and it’ll get more use as a leotard.

If you’re ever looking for massive safety pins, let me save you a day of running round like a blue-arsed fly. U & I Trimmings – Ridley Road Markets, Dalston. It’s chaos in there but they’re worth stopping into.

That was the difficult bit, the rest was just a matter of not freaking out about the fact I had an afternoon to finish it off.

dress form leotard

A few hours later, I took it down to make sure it fit. Fresh off the plane from a holiday in Vietnam and straight to the show, that’s dedication. And a hell of a tan!

Leotard Sink the Pink

In socks but still in heels. Always ready

I’m sure there’s a narrative involving the unicorn, the rainbow and that piece of tape on the wall so, go ahead and choose your own rainbow-unicorn adventure.

So shy.

So shy.

Glyn leotard V

She’s a stunner.

Photo below is a screen shot this link. Be warned if you go clicking around in that album, might not be safe for work. But do it if you can, witness the beauty of Jack Irving’s amazing inflatable costumes and other incredible pieces. Remember that sea anemone outfit Lady Gaga wore last year? That’s a Jack Irving. He’s amazing.


Apologies for any weird layout on this post. My computer has given up on me so I’m improvising.

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Fabric Chat returns #FabricChat

Fabric Chat is back! This Friday 9pm -10 pm GMT on twitter and we’ll be there every week. #FabricChat is an open twitter discussion in which people have a chance to talk fabric, ask questions and share knowledge and projects. Every week we’ll focus on one particular type of fabric but there’s also room for other sewing-related topics. It was originally started by Leila of Three Dresses Project in 2013 and ran for over a year, I’m really pleased that after a hiatus, it’s coming back. Leila’s compiled an archive of previous chats – it’s full of useful information and will give you an idea of how it works as well as topics we’ve covered. If possible, we’ll try to avoid repeating previous topics. It’s also a great way to connect online to other people who sew. Leila and I will share hosting but Fabric Chat is open to everyone so come along and say hi. You’ll find me on @smittenness and Leila on @lbreton . We’ll confirm this week’s topic by Thursday so let us know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to discuss. This is really about collaborating and sharing so input is always welcome.

Fabric Chat starts this Friday 6th March

When: Fridays 9-10pm (GMT) 4-5pm (EST) but feel free to stick around longer!

Hashtag: #FabricChat Current hosts: @smittenness & @lbreton

Looking forward to seeing you there.

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Faux Fur Jacket for February

Ok I lied. I actually ended up sewing this faux fur jacket in December. I regret nothing! It was worth it to get that bit of alliteration in. So here’s my Faux Fur in February Jacket. Don’t grass me up for the fibs.

Faux Fur Jacket

The first thing I should point out is that I lined it in tiger print. You noticed already, right? The animal print love affair remains as strong as ever. I dare say this is the longest relationship I’ve had in my life but it does mean a lot of my clothes are in a constant state of camouflage .

Faux Fur Jacket

To male this I used my trusty jacket block, which I drafted using Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting. There’s no collar, no closures and no fiddly details so the biggest challenge was cleaning up the bits of fluff that ended up carpeting the flat. Seriously, it looked like the cats had been hosting Kitty Fight Club in the living room.

RocknRoll, despite his name, prefers to seethe quietly like a stereotype of an English cat rather than get punchy.

RocknRoll, despite his name, prefers to seethe quietly like a stereotype of an English cat rather than get punchy.

The faux fur I bought from Dalston Mills. It’s got a nice wave in the nap, which gives it a nice texture but meant that I had to be conscious of how I was matching my panels. It’s a little thin for really cold nights and I could’ve underlined it but it’s a loose enough fit that I can layer underneath if need be. Looking at it in my garden and in daylight, it looks a little out of place but I really do love it and it makes much more sense at night.

Ok, so confession time. Do you notice anything weird in the picture below? I mean apart from the fact that I’m all dressed up to stand in the sandy patch in my garden and confuse the neighbours.

Faux Fur Jacket

Do you see how I managed to run out of fabric for the sleeves? I really ran quite short, not even adding a piece at the end of each sleeve would save it. I just ran out of fabric. But, who cares!?

Roll those sleeves up and no one will ever know. I usually end up doing this anyway and this way I get to break up the black and flash the lining. I doubt I’ll be wearing this is super cold weather so I’m not too concerned about frozen wrists.

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Self-drafted Summer Dress. For the birds.

Spending a few weeks in Australia was a little escape to paradise. The sky is huge, the sun is amazing and the trees are so noisy! Jet lag had me up at 4/5am most mornings and it was beautiful to wake up to the dawn chorus of magpies, parrots, kookaburras and the rest. The light is different there too and it really made me think more about colour and how I need to expand my choices.

Self drafted dress

I bought this fabric a while ago in Brighton, it really appealed to my love of animals in print. I hadn’t realised but I have a lot of animals on fabric laying about. It’s not surprising really, I can’t remember a time I didn’t have pets around. Almost all of my childhood photos have a rabbit, a cat, a dog, a duck, a chicken or (for a brief period) a kangaroo in them. Not much has changed! What you can’t see is my sister’s dog, just out of shot, waiting to play the “I’m stealing your shoes” game.


Being a nice stable woven, this cloth was easy to work with. One of my favourite things about this is the neckline. I’m partial to a low cut top but the higher neckline works better to show off the print. Drafting this was a good exercise. I used the block I’d made based on Metric Pattern Cutting and went from there, adding darts as I needed.

Self-drafted Dress

Looking at this dress I can see that it might need a bit of taking in under the bust and a few other things I’d probably do differently. I have a tendency to over fit things then regret it later so the fit probably is fine as it is – it was nice to have a bit of extra space to breathe on such hot days.

I didn’t line it, which is a bit of a drag because I can’t wear it with tights. No regrets though as it’s a nice little bit of colour and perfect for sunny weather. If only I could have packed some of that Perth sunshine in my suitcase to take back to London.

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Throwback Thursday. Vintage Style 2978

I was pretty insufferable on Instagram these last few weeks because I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks back in my home town of Perth, Australia.

Cottesloe Beach

It was great to be back after so long away and I’ll never let 3 years pass between visits again. I can’t remember the last time I had so many conversations about sharks and spiders! I got to escape winter for record-beating 44.4 degree days (that’d be Celsius, so 112 F) and spent a lot of time on the beach trying to soak up vitamin D without burning to a crisp.

Unfortunately, you can’t spend all your time at the beach under a hole in the ozone layer so I took the opportunity to indulge in a few nostalgia trips with my family via old photos and I uncovered a lot of photos of things my mum had made for me over the years. The two of us are especially fond of this pattern and between the two of us we’ve made at least 6 or 7 versions but the ones in this post will be dresses my mum has made over the years.


In its first incarnation, this dress was bright orange and covered in green and yellow flowers – it was the late 60s, I guess this colour scheme would have been very chic. It was actually mum’s engagement dress. She didn’t marry him though. Heartbreaker. There aren’t any photos of that time but there are some of when I found the dress at the back of a cupboard and claimed it when I was about 19.

Some of the flowers had fallen off but apart from that, it was in perfect condition. It still is now 20 (TWENTY!?) years after that photo was taken. There’s a brocade version of this made in the late 60s but I couldn’t find any decent photos of it.

When I was 15, mum whipped up a version in this black and rose print and I wore it to death! If it still fit me, I’d be wearing it now.

The next two versions were for costume parties. This next one was a last minute outfit for a friends Medieval-themed 18th birthday party (hi Tania).


Chiffon sleeves, lace, silver belt, laced up back. It may have been last minute but that didn’t mean there’d be any slouching in terms of details. I think the laced up back may have had something to do with not having a long enough zip around.

And then there’s this circa 1999. It’s glorious.


This was made for a 70s party and it was a joy to wear. I remember it being the afternoon before the party and there was still a zip to insert and few other details to fix. Then the power went out on our side of the street. An electricity pole had been knocked down (no one was badly injured) so no electricity for us. We ended up taking it across the road to a friend’s place to get it done. There’s always a solution!


Gathered sleeve heads, huge sleeves and those colours! Looking at this now, I can see how clever she was with the print placement. Yet again, mum was on it with the details.


I’ve made this pattern twice before but I know I’ll be making it up again. And soon.

My mum has always been a powerful creative influence on me, I try to keep in mind her tips when I’m sewing “don’t fight the fabric”, “Try it, you’ll never know if something doesn’t work until you try it”. And, my favourite, “Darling, if you like it, bugger what anyone else thinks, wear it”.


I’m the one on the right ;


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Sewing the Sink the Pink Winter Ball. If you can’t stand the heat, get a load of Jono Kitchens in this body con dress.

And to the final piece I made for the Sink the Pink Winter Ball. Sewing these was a load of fun and it was such a pleasure to spend time with Jono.

Here she is at The Bethnal Green Working Man’s Club for a rehearsal.

Sink the Pink

Ladies. Smoking Area, indeed!

The original conversation we had about this outfit involved “Vanessa, I’d love something similar to this. Nipped in waist, big hips”. If you didn’t click through, “this” is a retro, vampy, Judy Jetson-esque outfit worn by Sharon Needles of Ru Paul’s Drag Race fame. It was definitely the right look so now to make it practical for the choreography, and fire-eating (yes really).

Needless/Needles to say, I thoroughly enjoyed making this even though at the time I kept asking myself why I had decided on so many panels and why the hell I decided that right angles and symmetry should be involved at all. It’s basically the same catsuit pattern bodice extended into a dress so I could experiment with the cut outs and panels.

Pattern for Hot Heels All Fired Up Costume

Number all the panels!

I thought it best to ask “Are you boobing up for this number?”

“Probably not, I only have really bouncy, watery ones!”

I thought it better to leave the boob option open, so to speak, so we had this  homage to Janet-Super-Bowl-Jackson at the fitting. But slightly more graceful.

Sink the Pink Winter Ball

Born ready, imaginary heels even when only wearing socks.

I got a bit carried away with the sleeves, power mesh at the bicep and elbow and a fin at the armhole. The final look turned out like this.

Strong green brow.

Strong green brow.

Sink the Pink

And then there’s this over-the-shoulder-smouldering.

Sink the PinkThe hip pads were a bit of a head scratcher. I experimented with wire, wadding and swearing until I decided to use shoulder pads. I attached them to a belt that is stepped into, this way it can be used again.

I’m going to leave you with these particular bits of backstage joy.

Disnay Chanel and Joan Oh. Disnay's dress by Jay Barry Matthews.

Disnay Chanel and Joan Oh. Disnay’s dress by Jay Barry Matthews.

Joan Oh

Joan Oh

I’ve compiled the rest of the costumes I made for the Winter Ball in various other posts linked below. And if you poke around, you’ll find the Summer Ball posts too.



More Catsuits

More Jono in body con dresses.

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Sewing the Sink the Pink Winter Ball. Catsuits and gilding a lily.

Next up for the costumes I found myself sewing for the Sink the Pink Winter Ball is this catsuit. I know I probably shouldn’t have favourites but, of the 6 pieces, this might be the one. Here’s Chester making it look alive!

Sink the Pink Winter Ball

I love how garments change once they’re on a body. Seeing something like this laid out flat and 2 dimensional doesn’t give much of an idea of how it’s going to work once it’s on. Also, if you don’t stuff the crotch, you get this interesting effect as shown below left.

Without sounding like a perve, while working on this I had to always be aware of the body. There was more to consider in terms of how the panels would wrap around the arms and legs. Being dancers, all these guys are really well-defined and Chester’s aesthetic involves a lot of sharp contouring. I wanted to reflect that by following the muscles on the leg but I’m too close to judge whether that came through or not. I watched a lot of the Marco Marco catwalk shows and  kept Pam Hogg’s design lines in mind. But ultimately, it was a collaboration between Chester and I.

And he loved it. He didn’t want to take it off.


At one point I tried to talk him out of the zip down the front. That fabric is quite thin and super princessy when it comes to unpicking. The fact that the zip went in without puckering was a nice surprise. I must have used the right combination of threats and pleading.

Doesn’t it look different on a female dress form? I initially started with this kind of shoulder in mind but on trying it on we decided it was too fussy and ruined the sleekness.

The back looks pretty damn hot too.

The red on the calf really caught the light and it looked fab on stage. The catsuit I made for Glyn (in the red wig) looked great next to this one too.

The video footage for the Winter Ball isn’t up on youtube, not yet anyway, but you’ve got to see this guy dance. Without taking anything away from the other guys who are very talented, Chester Hayes is mesmerising. And I’m not just saying that out of loyalty, here’s a Guardian review of his role in Kes for Sheffield’s Crucible this April.

Chester Hayes, superb as Billy, ….journeys between the two states: not just his limbs, but his face and entire being opening up ….child and bird both learning how to find freedom within the restraints that bind them – for a while (Brennan, 2014)

I have a memory of reading something long ago in a theatre studies course about how the body in performance transforms. I probably dismissed it as a load of old wank at the time but watching Chester that idea makes sense. I don’t want to over-analyse it but he basically turns into something else and it’s beautiful to watch.

I wish I knew what that felt like. I suppose it’s like the trance-like state you get when you’re doing something creative. You get absorbed and your brain changes speed, it speeds up but it quietens and before you know it, hours have passed.

He’s also a real sweetheart. Last I saw him he was tearing around an ice rink in a fur coat and fishnet body-stocking before he tumbled gracefully into a split.

I may have laughed. In fact, I may still be laughing.

Check out this link for Not This Time by the 2 Bears. The song’s great and there’s a whole raft of the Sink the Pink crew in it. Chester’s about 30 seconds in in green body paint but I can pretty much guarantee you’ll enjoy all of them.

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