Fix It June: Sari Top

Or more correctly a “choli“.

So Me-Made-May set me on the path to Fix-It-June.
First to be sorta fixed is this choli top.

The pattern was self-drafted based on an earlier sloper, and didn’t account for breathing ease nor my uneven sloping shoulders. As with most alterations there is a limit to how much improvement that can be made. Here are the before & after mug shots.

Before Mug Shots

After Mug Shots

  • The left back side is now better after a sloping shoulder adjustment.
  • I can now breath after letting out tiny bits on all princess & side seams.

But I can still see fitting problems…The armholes feel a bit tight and there are draglines along the neckline pointing toward the shoulder tips. It’s as if the sleeves are pulling the neckline outward. I wonder if perhaps the lack of sleeve cap ease / shallow cap is the culprit.

sleeve-cap-ease My theory is that there’s not enough room in my sleeve cap to accommodate the roundness of my shoulder joints, so the sleeves want to pull the shoulder tips outward to compensate, and without a smaller neckline to counter-act this tendency the sleeves win, resulting in the neckline being pulled apart / outward. So what this top wanted was more like the left side in the picture below, but what I’m getting is more like the right side. (More on my sleeve block experiment here.)

It’s a shame I experimented first on the nicer of my two choli fabrics and made it in a rush for an occasion. This red one is silk and I think it came with the matching silk sari that I wore in the mug shots above. The other red one is cotton and might also have been bought as a set with the matching sari. I have another green cotton sari, but no matching choli fabric for it.

 Saris: An Illustrated Guide To The Indian Art Of Draping by Chantal Boulanger Ja, I went through a sari-mad phase, but never mastered the art of sari-wearing. I even bought this fascinating book by anthropologist Chantal Boulanger called “Sari: An Illustrated Guide to the Indian Art of Draping“. It documents 100 different ways of sari draping worn by the various castes in different regions of the Indian subcontinent. Absolutely fascinating. And sad that some of these methods may soon be forgotten. Thankfully the book includes instructions & diagrams for these different drapes.

> You can sample few pages from the book here

In London you do see women wearing Saris on the street. And they always look so elegant regardless of their size, shape, or age. Even the impoverished ladies you see in documentaries about rural India look elegant in their sari. All that without complicated fancy sewing. Amazing.

Here are my not so brilliant attempts
at three of the drapes…



Maybe I should practice wearing saris more often.
It would certainly be a good justification for
my Sari & Not-So-Sari stashes! 😉

Catching the Kimono Train

I was reading about Chanel No. 6’s blue cut velvet kimono the other day, and thought I’d share my 2 cents from my clipping stash (and past obsession with many things Japanese, though mostly pop / modern).

So here’s the lovely kimono she made, with her step-by-step instruction inspired by an authentic kimono she got from a friend.

And here’s how to wear it
if you really must do housework in it…

Keeping Your Sleeves out of the Soup (and Laundry)

I’m glad I found this, for I thought my mind was going. I vaguely recall seeing something like this, but can’t find any evidence in my clipping stash. Must have been some girl’s manga I was into way back when.

I wished I had found it earlier though. I had made this kimono robe a few years ago. But it got little wear because…well, the sleeves was sharing my soup and much more.

It also doesn’t help that it’s a bit immodest in the back – thanks to not enough yardage as it was just another fabric from the stash. And as Channel No. 6 mentioned, you really do need a very soft, drapy fabric. Mine was a bit spongy – soft, but not limp enough. So it feels a bit too boxy for a shorty like me.


Mine is a little bit different from the version Channel No. 6 detailed. It also has the open underarm and inner edge of the sleeve flaps, but without the rectangular insert mentioned in her step 6.

I made mine unlined and reversible as I find the peach side more flattering for my skin tone than the lovely iridescent blue side.

Mine was based on a Threads article on kimono from Jan 1991. Unlike the recent Burda 7/2011-124, it’s all rectangular pieces of fabric…

It seems relatively authentic – if you can trust Japanese Jenny doll kimono pattern and instruction to be faithful to the real thing…

Variations & Styling…

I love the extra long sleeves of girl’s / single women’s formal kimono. So decadent! There are some styles that don’t seem to be as well known in the west. Like the middle picture below, which is a Meiji period school girl uniform.

Kimonos from different periods

Interestingly the Japanese versions don’t seem to be drapy. Yet the way they wear it still makes them look slim and elegant. I guess what looks like a padded middle and the resultant high-waisted effect create a vertical column that’s slimming…Unlike my unpadded attempt which by betraying a narrower middle paradoxically ended up exaggerating the width above and below the obi belt (actually a wide scarf ).

And the long sleeves of course further emphasize the graceful vertical lines. Love to catch a breeze in those!

Also note how the collar hangs away from the back of the neck in the most deliciously seductive way. As they say, less is more – just a tiny peak of a graceful long neck is way more enticing than acres of skin.

But can one pull off a Japanese styling if one’s not Japanese? I think I’d feel foolish. Costumy is not an issue, but I’d wouldn’t know how to move in it with conviction. And that, I think, is a key ingredient of style.

My all time favourite western styling of a kimono has to be this one from John Galliano’s Autumn/Winter 1994 collection…

John Galliano Autumn/Winter 1994

Supposedly he was so broke he had to resort to cheaper lining fabrics for this collection. Yet the result is stunning.

A real shame then about his recent disgraceful behaviour. But I’ve never been one to put talented people on pedestal. So the fall in no way affects my appreciation of his designs.