Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Extravagant, Perfect Details of Alabama Chanin

Y'all, I have fallen down a rabbit hole of stitchery.

Last year, I posted about my wedding dress, which prompted tales of your own handmade and custom made dresses. Though they all sounded gorgeous, one left me utterly gobsmacked. Susan, who doesn't blog but is awesome, made her own Alabama Chanin style wedding gown.

Note: This is not Susan's dress. I saw pictures, however, and it was a cream-colored bit of perfection. Imagine a white version of the dress above and you're close. A-mazing. 

Did you just gasp in awe? If not, I can only assume it's because you're unfamiliar with the opulent, environmentally sustainable Southern fashion house that is Alabama Chanin. Dealing mainly in midweight cotton jersey, Natalie Chanin & co. hand make some of the most intricate garments on the continent. Each piece uses a combination of techniques, from reverse appliques to embroidered seams and beading, that can be called nothing short of wearable art.

Alabama Chanin pieces are stunning online, but more so in person. The aesthetic here is the opposite of modernist simplicity. Instead of clean lines and androgynous shapes, these are the clothes of deeply feminine, romantic wood sprites. The women of the Alabama Chanin collection look as if they're en route to a DIY wedding, held in a secluded meadow by Tolkien elves who now live in Regency England.

So, you know, I adore them. Ardently. Shall we ogle a bit?

Unfortunately for me, the labor involved in these garments and the ethical business practices of Alabama Chanin mean that they are priced, quite fairly, at a gazillion dollars. Until my first book hits the NYT list, they are a few stratospheres above my price range.

There is, however, a bright spot. Three of them, even! Natalie Chanin has authored multiple home sewing books, detailing in full color photographs, the Alabama Chanin techniques. The latest book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, arrived into my greedy hands tonight. After much hemming and hawing, I ordered it on Amazon, resolved to make my own opulent wood nymph creations.

The book comes with sewing patterns, up to a bust size 42'', and 175 pages of embellishment techniques. Each technique is explained beautifully and looks deceptively easy. I'm pretty sure that my first attempt will be disastrous, but I'm dying to try it out! When enumerating what I love in RTW clothing, charming embellishments are high on the list. I seldom add them to my own projects, however, which needs to change. This book is an excellent start.

Have you ever attempted reverse applique or running embroidery a la Alabama Chanin? Do you have any other small, handmade fashion company that you'd love to release a home sewing book? Do you just think I'm crazed for attempting such a thing?

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