Photo Credit: Patrick Sandora and Neiman Marcus
I always want -- maybe even exclusively want -- what I can't have. I decided as a teenager that Derek Jeter would be my husband, I secretly wish I were French, and I long for a country home with acres of land -- preferably in Manhattan, please.
So when I tried on a similar version of this dress at Diane von Furstenberg's boutique, I fell in love. And when my eye caught the $398 price tag, I knew I had to make it mine.
The part of my brain that's linked up to my bank account, however, didn't agree. But thanks to a childhood education in sewing from my mom, a crackerjack fabric store and my handy-dandy (and super-cheap) sewing machine, I've become somewhat adept at the art of imitation.
Over the course of a few weekends, I sewed a $60 version of the $398 DVF dress I so coveted. I've probably saved thousands of dollars over the past few years by crafting my own version of clothes I can't afford. While I do feel a little guilty about cheaping out on my favorite designers, I'll always patronize them for special pieces that can't be made at home.
After numerous mistakes and some rewarding successes along the way, here's what I've learned about creating your favorite designs at home:
1. Find a Pattern
Unless you're a design visionary or a Project Runway contestant, it's tough to pull a design out of thin air and turn it into something wearable. You need a basic blueprint of the shape you're going for, even if it's not exactly what you're aiming for. You can easily tweak it to more closely resemble the item you're copying.
Good sources for patterns are McCall's (which carries Butterick, McCall's and Vogue patterns) and Simplicity (which carries Simplicity and New Look patterns).
For the dress I made here, I would use either this or this.
2. Pick Appropriate Fabrics
The fit and flow of fabrics is a tricky business, and there's usually a reason designers choose the fabrics they do. When you're at the fabric store, don't stray too far from the type of material the designer used. Weight, stretch and texture are the key qualities you should look for.
3. Pin and Baste!
Always pin fabric pieces together before you begin sewing. And if you're using a pattern you're not sure about, always baste the fabric together first (basting = sewing with giant stitches). This way, if the piece doesn't fit you or just looks wrong, the stitches can be ripped out quickly and easily before giving it another go.
4. Think Big
When in doubt, always make your clothes bigger than you think they need to be. You can always take away fabric to make it smaller, but you can't add more.
5. Don't Go it Alone
After each phase of the sewing process, fit the piece to either a dress form or your own body. In the case of the latter, make sure you have a friend on-hand to help you gently get in and out of the unfinished clothing (especially if it's pinned together -- ouch!).
Kristen Aiken is iVillage's food editor. Follow her on Twitter: @kristenaiken.