The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Student Report

One of the most fun things to teach is when we “knock off” a designer.  And the real truth is that we usually don’t knock it off.  What we do is use the garment as inspiration and develop into a garment that is much more useful and serviceable for the sewist than anything they could buy, much less he original garment.

The way this jacket came about was fascinating cause it wasn’t the normal way I get a student.

First, she came to me as a client – would I knock off a jacket she had seen in he New York Times.


This is part of the new collection that Alexander Wang is doing for Balenciaga and I though it was right on point at the time.  Great lines, great look, great proportion and had everything a sophisticate would ever want, so it was no surprise that this gal would want this jacket.  Course I knew from the get-go that we wouldn’t end up with this version and ours would have a gazillion iterations by the time we got to the finished garment.  It was only $14,000 so my client felt she was ahead of the game.

In addition her favorite blue pants had shrunk (OK, she got a little larger – you know what I mean!!).  So she had a beautiful print inserted in the side seam. I worked fabulously, but she wanted a jacket out of that same print to go with the pants. She showed it to me and I was already planning out how we would take the major two dominant mandalas and make one the front and the other the back.  As we began to talk, she realized I was teaching, and asked me about making some things.  I suggested she come to one of my single day classes and a student was born!!!!

I had already drafted up the pattern and put together a muslin ready for fitting and the first of many iterations, and we started there. From here on out the jacket was hers.  We went through about 3 days of fittings on the jacket to get it just the way she wanted, then she cut it out.  We added a collar, we made the collar so that it would stand in back and would roll on the side and lay flat at the chest/bust area.

And voila….  lolly4This shows the collar and how much she loves it but also how she will wear it so well.



This is modeling with her pants.  The length of the sleeves, hang of the jacket (it does have two darts in back), the length of the jacket is all designed and purposefully thought out.


And a great font look, showing the mandala in front and how it matches.  The jacket has all sorts of couture details, that the shape and style are set by the sewists, not Balenciaga, not other designers, not store buyers, not manufacturers, not fashion magazine editors – she alone is the one who made all the key decisions on this garment.

lolly6 lolly7

Here are good photos of the front and back all finished.  The back shows the main mandala design of the fabric and the front showing the match of the secondary mandala.  Notice how we put the main mandala in back, because this is the easiest place to put the main mandala.  The secondary was easier o match than the main mandala which only occurred once in the width of the fabric.   That meant to match the main mandala in front would take two lengths to match which we both felt was a bit excessive, and had the one in back, then matched in front.


Granted this was a huge project to take on for her first project, but the most important thing is that she stayed with it and the finished result is a beautiful Balenciaga-inspired jacket.  In addition through it all she purchased a beginning sewing machine, an excellent iron, picking up several good tools, pins, scissors and ending with a very nice life-time Bernina 830.  It’s obvious to her that this is a new love and she loves the results

For me – this is the greatest fun of all, watching a student catch on to sewing the way it should be… be free of others and able to do exactly what you want.


  1. Love this story – thanks for sharing!

  2. Claire, I have always loved how you talk about proportion and how you make so much sense in that regard. The “drama” in the original jacket was due to the elongated back. I realize that your student does not have the height of the model but why didn’t the student’s jacket have that drama? Unless, of course, it was the student’s choice.


    • Actually she wanted this modified just a tad, because she planed on wearing this more as a casual jacket – something classic that she knew would work with pants and possibly a skirt and that skirt ads a whole new dimension to the outfit, so it has to obey both jacket and pant proportion rules. I also think she wanted less drama so she could wear it successfully through the years. As this was her first project, we stayed a little on the conservative side. To be honest, now that she has tackled this, she’s going to be trying a lot more braver things!!!

  3. Wonderful!

  4. This is great to see her finished product. What a beautiful job on a challenging item. I agree the final jacket is much more wearable than the designers version.
    I Love it!

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