Black Tweed Shorts

These tweed shorts are ancient! But since winter is upon us in the Southern Hemisphere, I had to blog them because they are my winter go-to item that I wear quite often with black opaque stockings.

Before having lived in Europe, I had never seen or heard of winter shorts worn with stockings. I only knew summer shorts! So when I discovered them, I jumped on the bandwagon and made myself a pair. I also thought they were warmer than a short skirt in the cold and looked kinda chic with boots. They were quite trendy amongst girls and women in the colder seasons.

I made these out of the fabric remnants of a jacket I made a long, long time ago when we still lived in Germany. The fabric is a black wool and silk tweed.

 

There wasn’t much fabric left to use for anything much but I managed to squeeze out these guys. They ended up being a little too short for my taste, so I had to use small pieces to lengthen them with strips of fabric on the bottom of each leg as much as I could. It came down to every centimetre!

For the pattern, I just used another pair of pants I had that fit me well, lay them flat on top of the fabric and cut around the edges, leaving enough for the seams. To be honest, I don’t even know which pants I used for the pattern. That says a lot about their age!

They are loose fitting, totally comfy and sort of just sit on the hip. And…they are quick and easy to make!

The shorts have two darts each front and back and are lined edge to edge with a simple black lining fabric. There is no waistband and a dress zip closes them off at the back.

I like to wear these shorts with boots. Heeled or flat ones. And of course opaque stockings, (which I coincidentally didn’t in these photos😬).

Sometimes an outfit in one colour looks great and I do like an all black look. But I also like to throw in a splash of colour to pep things up. So that was the red coat’s job here. And also sticking to the autumn colour scheme, as it was when we took the photos.

There are some more winter shorts planned for this season in thicker, wintery fabrics. They are a nice alternative to skirts when it gets cold. Worn with tall or ankle boots. Maybe even a winter playsuit? Let’s see what the stash has to offer in suitable fabrics!

Do you have an older clothing piece that is your favourite or go-to in a particular season?

LOCATION: Mt. Buffalo, Victorian High Country

STYLING: coat – Zara, boots – Zara, hat – FCUK, sunglasses – Agenda, top – Zara

The Ladies Tux

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I made this black lace jumpsuit, which is my version of a ladies tux for the Tessuti Cut Out Lace Competition late last year. Unfortunately I didn’t win any of the prizes with it, but taking part in the competition was a lot of fun and I got a nice evening style jumpsuit out of it.

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The lace fabric is from Tessuti in Melbourne. It’s a cotton/polyester blend and despite the pattern going through it, easy to sew. The fabric came in panels. I bought 3 panels for this jumpsuit just to be sure I would have enough to match and mirror the pattern where needed.

 

My inspiration for the sleeves of the jumpsuit was a jacket I saw by Carolina Herrera in black lace. The sleeves were just the thing I was looking for! Although the sleeves on her jacket are quite a lot more voluminous and longer than mine. I wanted mine be somewhere between three quarters and seven eighths long.

  

I used Vogue V1471 by Nicola Finetti for the top of the jumpsuit. I had no idea whether the plunge in the front was too deep or not because I didn’t bother making a muslin to try it out before cutting into the limited amount of lace I had.

  

I used Simplicity 1665 for the pants and extended them by about 5cm to make sure they went down to my ankles. I measured  the length I thought the pants should be but was still risking it a bit because I wanted the edge to be on point in length, as I was using the selvage with the dotted pattern as my hem. I measured and remeasured and remeasured again until I was 100% sure it was the right length before cutting. There was no room for error! It just wouldn’t have looked nice if the edging had been sewn on. It had to be in one piece.

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Cutting the pattern out was pretty scary because I could not afford for any mistakes to happen. I only had the three panels to use very cautiously and didn’t want to end up buying more.

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I was tossing up between lining the whole thing in skin coloured dance fabric or just lining the bodice in skin coloured fabric and the legs in black. I opted for black legs because I thought it would look too risqué if it looked like it was skin coloured everywhere. I think I made the right decision in hindsight, especially if I really plan to wear it anywhere!

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So for the legs, I used black taffeta as lining and beautifully soft skin coloured dance fabric for the bodice as lining. I didn’t line the sleeves to save time and felt it wasn’t necessary.

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To make the bell sleeves, I sewed the bottom part of the bell sleeve with the dotted pattern to the top gathered part and then attached them to the main sleeve. To give the sleeves a rounded shape and make them stand out a bit, I used black boning that I encased into the seam of the top and bottom of the ruffled sleeve by hand stitching it in place.

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The decollete did end up being somewhat more revealing than I would have liked it to be, so I used the dotted pattern in the lace to cover up a bit of exposed flesh (!) by sewing it into the seam in the front and around the back. Even though it is quite narrow, I do find it helps to cover up at least a little and adds more to the overall look by repeating the dotted pattern on the sleeve and pant edges.

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The most challenging thing about making this jumpsuit, was to make sure the pattern matched up perfectly where it should and having enough of the fabric to do so. I was always playing around with the pattern pieces before cutting to make sure I was getting the best part of the pattern on each piece.

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I pretty much used up most of the fabric and only have bits and pieces left that I still hope to utilise in some way for a small something.

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When I was sewing this jumpsuit, I was very unsure of whether I would like it or not. Every time I tried it on to check for fit and adjustments, I thought: I am either going to love it or hate it when it’s finished. Well, I have to say I do love it, which surprised me because I really thought it would be the opposite. I just have to have an event to wear it to now!

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I am happy with the matching up of the lace pattern in the front and back. I put in a very long invisible zip to make sure I could get in and out of the jumpsuit comfortably and also to keep the pattern in the lace as undisturbed as possible when zipped up.

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To neaten up the inside, I used a skin coloured dance fabric to line the bodice. It’s very soft, stretchy and comfortable to wear. The inside of the arm holes are finished off with black bias binding.

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I have to admit, I am in a kind of jumpsuit phase at the moment! I am loving all kinds of jumpsuits: long legged, short, strapless, casual, formal. Anything jumpsuit style! I do hope the fashion sticks around for a while. Do you like jumpsuits too?

 

LOCATION: the backyard!

STYLING: necklace and bracelet: Zara, sunglasses: Margot by Tom Ford, shoes: Zara.

Striped Set

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while now will have very quickly realised that I am definitely a dress person when it comes to sewing. But in everyday life, I DO wear pants, shorts and jeans and not very often, but sometimes I actually do make these too! I haven’t had much luck in sewing well fitted pants in the past, so I am a bit wary of making them. Nevertheless, after a whole lot of dresses, it was time to make and blog something a little different.

Even though I am not your tallest person, I absolutely adore wide legged, palazzo and flared pants. Especially the 70s type.  I know they look better on taller people than myself, but I still love them! I tried to elongate the legs of these as much as possible by making them almost down to the ground.

For this set, I used an original 70s pattern by Teal Traina for the pants and matched them with a strapless top using a modern strapless dress pattern by Kwik Sew, cutting it off about 25 cm below the waist.

    

    

My fabric comes from Tessuti in Melbourne – a beautiful linen/cotton blend in a navy denim look and white stripe. It has a great thickness and drape to it. The stripes are horizontal on the fabric. But I wanted vertical stripes on my pants, so I risked it and cut them out against the grain. I was afraid that the fabric would stretch or go out of shape while wearing the pants because I had cut it against the grain, but luckily, it seems to be holding it’s shape.

The pants were very easy and quick to make. They are darted into an inside ribbon waistband and I used an 18cm invisible zip in the back to close them off. No fussing around.

When it came to the top, I didn’t want the it to have all the stripes going in one direction and definitely not all vertical, because it would just be too boring. I thought it would make it visually more interesting if the stripes middle front and centre back were horizontal and the rest vertical.

The strapless top took a bit more time to make up than the pants. I cut the top using size S and should have known that it was too big for me from the last time when I used this same pattern for my Capri dress. But I was in a rush and thought better be safe than sorry if XS ended up being too small. I will know better next time!

To underline the top, I used a nice, old cotton bed sheet that I had put aside for lining. It had outlived its use as bed linen, but was still very good quality, fine cotton and a shame to throw away. I used two layers of the cotton bed linen as underlining and at first thought it would be too much, but two layers turned out to be a good amount to give the top a good shape and thickness.

I took in each seam until the top fit me in a snug way. Then I contemplated which type of zip to use. I couldn’t use an invisible one, because I wouldn’t be able to get a fitted top on and off without an open end zip. So I bought the shortest open end zip in navy blue I could find and was going to put it in the centre back. But the zip was too long for the back and I didn’t want to cut it and potentially ruin it. I was playing around with it in front of the mirror and by pure stroke of genius found that it had the perfect length to go in the front side seam. I hadn’t seen that before, so why not be different?

The zip was a perfect fit and even though I didn’t put in a hook and eye or button in at the top, it stays in place very well without opening.

To finish off the top on the inside, I didn’t line it but used bias binding to finish off the edges neatly. I thought there were enough layers of fabric in it already with the underlining and it didn’t need any more thickness to it.

After having a look at these photos, I realised that I would need to put some boning in the back of the top to keep any folds from forming. Sometimes you see things in your finished product that need improving after you think the job has been done! Not my favourite thing to do…

 

I think my new matchy matchy set has worked out well. It really was a very rushed job, but the fit is perfect and also very comfortable to wear.

I don’t know about you, but I really like matching tops and bottoms. They are a bit like twin sets of a different kind. I definitely have plans to make some more matching sets of tops and pants and also tops and shorts.

Now that the evenings are very long here in Melbourne after our winter time change, I plan to do lots of sewing. Reality is  that after work and my regular running during the week, I am so tired that don’t get much done at all!

Keep smiling and sewing until next time (hopefully very soon)!

STYLING: hat – Borsalino, Rome, shoes – Windsor Smith, sunglasses – Carlina Square by Chloe, ring – Apart Fashion

LOCATION: Elmore, Victoria

Chloe Collection

When the Chloe spring/summer 2016 collection came out, I flicked through the pictures of each garment on the runway and fell in love with the dresses, top and skirt in the pictures below. They all have a girly retro look about them. I really like the bows and the top stitching. So of course I decided to copy one (for now) and decided it would be the first dress with the two bows on the shoulders – also in navy but without the extreme low cut front.

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By doing some research on the internet, I found out that the Chloe dress was made in crepe. I didn’t have navy crepe in my stash, so I thought a navy ponte knit would do the job. I find ponte knit very easy to sew and work with and also nice to wear. Unfortunately I didn’t think about how thick the ponte would be when it came to top stitching. There was a reason for the crepe and not ponte knit in the Chloe collection. But if you don’t look too close…

My ponte knit was from a remnant fabric/clothing store that sells remnants from Australian fashion labels, which I have mentioned a few times on my blog. I stop by every now and then to see what they have in stock when I am in the area, as they are only a few doors down from one of my favourites – The Fabric Store.

I am quite sure it’s a rayon ponte knit because of the beautiful drape of the fabric. And it doesn’t have a synthetic feel to it.

In the photos the ponte comes across as a deep blue but that is just the lighting in the pictures. It is in fact a medium navy blue.

I had to make up the pattern for this dress myself, as I didn’t really have anything similar in my pattern stash. So trial and error it was again until I thought it looked ok! The dress is a slight A line, so it wasn’t rocket science.

I guessed the length of the ties by studying photos of the original on the internet and in magazines and made them a bit longer just in case. Cutting off is easier than regretting and redoing…

The original Chloe dress has a plunging V in the front and back, which was not for me and my bra shapes! So I cut it to a more modest and wearable depth.

The only real issue I had with this dress was the top stitching, which I did with white top stitching thread. The ponte knit was just too thick to top stitch through well and tidily in the shoulder area. Double layers of fabric were fine, but four layers were just too much. The tension was constantly wrong and I had to undo lots of it and start again and again until it was satisfactory at least. Such a pain!

I am not super proud of the result, but I think I can get away with it.

We took the photos of my Chloe dress at Mt Buffalo, while holidaying in beautiful Bright, Victoria. It’s autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and the temperature at Mt Buffalo’s Torpedo Rock (almost at the peak) was a cool 9 degrees Celsius, while down below in town it was 22 degrees! Straight back into the jeans and warm gear after the photos!

Keep sewing and until next time!

STYLING: sunglasses – Carlina Square by Chloe, shoes – Zara, ring – Apart Fashion

LOCATION: Torpedo Rock, Mt Buffalo, Victoria

#2017makenine

So, I know I’m mega late with this one – life has gotten out of control once again! But I just wanted to share my #2017makenine with you before the year gets any older!

Of course I am aiming waaaay too high (again) this year when I think of the list of makes I have planned for 2017. But here are nine that I would really like to complete before the year is out.

Number 1 – Ralph Lauren stripy summer dress as seen on the runway. Not sure which collection it’s from (I found it on Pinterest). Also not sure I will be able to get the gorgeous blue/lilac stripy fabric for it…

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Number 2 – Alex Perry dress that I need to hack. I got the original fabric for the skirt part from Tessuti fabrics and had a look at the original dress at Myer. Hope I can do it justice!

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Number 3 – Simplicity Cynthia Rowley 1104.

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Number 4 – Simplicity Cynthia Rowley 8124. One down, two to go (playsuit is done – see my previous post).

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Number 5 – Simplicity Cynthia Rowley 1105.

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Number 6 – Retro Butterick B6318 in stripes.

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Number 7 – Vintage Simplicity 7000 short sleeveless playsuit.

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Number 8 – Vintage Simplicity 7431 short version dress. I made the long version, which you can see here.

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Number 9 – Vintage Vogue 2414 strapless dress without jacket.

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Sew many things to make, yet sew little time in between life’s duties…sigh…

Happy sewing in 2017 everyone!

 

Australia Day Outfit 2017 – Simplicity 8124

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Happy belated new year everyone! I hope you have all had a great start to the year. I have had a much too long break from sewing and blogging over the last two months (at least). So it was high time to get the ball rolling again. I realised that I had missed sewing so much when I started to sew this Cynthia Rowley jumpsuit, playsuit or romper – whatever you want to call it! Sewing is always so therapeutic for me, except for when I have to unpick bits and redo them. That ends up having the opposite effect! But yes, I really missed my sewing and blogging.

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I bought this pattern late last year at a Spotlight pattern sale and want to make all the garments that the pattern contains this summer. Soon after, I bought this beautiful 100% cotton also from Spotlight with a wattle print on it and immediately thought I would make a dress out of it.

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So I started to make a maxi dress and it was almost finished. I tried it on and suddenly decided it was too boring and that I probably wouldn’t wear it much or at all. Since my wardrobe space is extremely limited, I had to make a wise decision. The decision was to deviate to the playsuit by Cynthia Rowley. Luckily, the maxi dress had a straight cut and gathered skirt which was big enough for me to be able to cut out the whole playsuit pattern from. I just wasn’t sure whether I should use the XS or the S size after reading numerous reviews on this pattern. Most of them said that the sizing was very generous and voluminous. So I cut out size S, also leaving the XS markings as an option if I needed them.

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Because the wattle print cotton is white and could be see-through in light, I used an eggshell coloured silk/cotton to underline it with. The only adjustment I made to the cut, was to lengthen the hem of the shorts by about 4cm.

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The playsuit was very easy to make. It would have been a lot quicker if I had had the correct width of elastic in my stash. I didn’t, and had to cut some down to the right width and couldn’t get it into the tunnel even then! So frustrating trying to pull it through with a safety pin multiple times and it not fitting through. In the end, the pin broke in the tunnel and I had to pull it out and cut it down by another 1mm to make it fit! But that was the biggest drama of the pattern! The rest was a piece of cake.

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I like the end product but do find that when the top is worn off the shoulder it causes a not too nice looking bulge around the waistline. I don’t know what the solution to this is, because if you only wear it off the shoulder, that’s fine, but if you also want to wear it on the shoulder, there would not be enough length in the bodice…sometimes you can’t win. Still, I do like the pattern and if I do make it again, I will shorten the bodice just a little to allow for a nicer looking waistline if worn off the shoulder, which I prefer.dsc_1724aAustralia Day has come and gone and I was too busy on the day to blog this little playsuit, but here it is – my 2017 Australia Day outfit. This can easily be casual or dressed up depending on your fabric and accessory choice.dsc_1293a

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STYLING: sunglasses – Chloe, flat sandals – bought in Amalfi, Italy, heels – Steve Madden, belt – Witchery, wreath – synthetic wattle from Spotlight

LOCATION: Bayside walking trail, Mentone

Palace Masquerade

DSC_9834bThis dress is very special to me. Not for being obviously fancy, but because I made it when I was 18 years old, which seems like in another life now! I clearly remember being totally obsessed with everything eighteenth century: architecture and palaces, music, paintings, furniture and garments. Especially the candy-coloured ballgowns of the aristocratic ladies. Just because they were all so pretty and beautiful to look at. I devoured any costume film I could get my hands on and lived and breathed this period of time. If wishing hard enough could have transported me back in time to the eighteenth century, I would have been in Versailles to witness the scandalous pomp of Louis XVI’s court.

DSC_9498aLike most girls I love the fairytale of Cinderella. Back then, after watching the musical film “The Slipper and the Rose” for the umpteenth time with my sister, I decided I would make a ball gown similar to the one in the film. My seamstress grandmother who lived with us and had taught me how to sew thought I was out of my mind! She only made sensible, real clothing for everyday wear. But that didn’t stop me….I was off in fairytale land!

slipper-and-rose-filmMy main problem was finding a pattern for this, this grand-dame-of-a-dress! I had absolutely no idea where to get a pattern for such a garment.

I know this gown was meant to happen because the next time I walked into my local library, there it was! The book “Patterns of Fashion 1” by Janet Arnold with real eighteenth century patterns staring me in the face from a display shelf! I couldn’t believe my luck! I didn’t even have to go looking for it! I found exactly the pattern I was after in the book – the gown from The Snowshill Manor, dated 1775 – 1785. The next hurdle was that the pattern had to be enlarged from about A3 (on which all pattern pieces were drawn) to real life size. So I did what had to be done. Got lots of huge pieces of paper, stuck them all together and made a grid according to the scale in the book with my 30cm ruler! Then I copied the pattern square for square by hand with a lead pencil. It was more than tedious but my grandmother had paper on a roll that was about 150cm wide and that definitely helped instead of piecing small sheets together. I was totally risking the size of the dress, as I had no idea whether it would fit me or not by just looking at the pattern pieces in the book. And there weren’t many instructions either.  But guess what? It was a perfect fit! Another stroke of luck!

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My gown was destined to be pink, just like in the film. So I bought pink satin, taffeta, ribbon and sequins in silver, see-through ones that shimmer in rainbow colours and tiny beads silver beads. I also bought white lace for the underskirt, the sleeves and the stomacher. I used the pattern for the cut and made my own adornments on the gown as I researched the decorations of the time. They didn’t use sequins back then, so that isn’t traditional, but the rest of the decorations could have been used during the rococo period.

I made my own satin roses by folding a strip of satin (right sides together), sewing the ends together, turning the strips to the right side and then gathering the bottom end and rolling it into a rose shape. The leaves are made of pale green satin.

For the ribbon decoration either side of the overskirt, I folded the ribbon in even folds and hand stitched it before machine sewing it in place on the gown.

I also bought a few bunches of fabric flowers in pink and white on thin wire stems and poked them through the folded ribbon around the stomacher, the top edges of the bodice and the skirt ruffle and hand sewed them in place.

This is one of my old photos of the gown after I had just finished it off.

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DSC_9353a     DSC_9671a The most challenging part of the construction for me was the boned stomacher of the gown. In the infancy of my sewing experience, I was not aware that I could have just bought synthetic boning. I had read that the ladies in the eighteenth century used real whale bones in their corsets to stiffen them. They were inserted in the narrow tunnels of the garment that had been sewn for the bones. Since I was more than unlikely to find whale bones for this purpose and being very creative and inventive as I was, I found something that was actually quite easy to access – a metal coat hanger, or two, or three. I used pliers to cut the lengths I needed and straightened them. Then, after sewing the narrow tunnels I inserted each piece. That worked quite well and the metal was very stiff too. They don’t make metal coat hangers like they used to! The problem was that the ends were sharp and I wasn’t sure if the metal would rust at some stage. I encased the ends as best I could by folding over the edge of the fabric and covering it with a white ribbon edging. They haven’t rusted yet in over 25 years! Did I just say 25 years!?

DSC_9401a                     dsc_9180aThe bodice is completely lined in white linen – as they did so in those days. Even though some of the dress isn’t made using the materials and adornments that would have been used back in the eighteenth century, I did try to make it as close as possible to the original construction of the day, using modern construction methods of a sewing machine!

I was going to make a traditional petticoat, or paniers as some say at some stage, but never got around to it, so I just used a tulle layered skirt to puff up the dress as best as possible.

Here are some “real, old” photos of me wearing the gown in the Schlosspark in the early 1990s:

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img_0177a1And in July this year…

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During the many years I lived in Germany (at one stage only 5 mins walk away from the palace gardens where these photos were taken), I had tried to convince my other half to go the Venice Carnevale with me so that I could actually wear this creation. But to no avail. He would not be seen dead in stockings, knicker-bocker style pants and a wig and that was that! So this grand dame has only come out of the closet for a few photos and not much else in a very long time.

Looking back on this gown, I do feel the itch to make another one in another colour and cut. I started to make one in a heavy cream satin with gold embroidery that is about half way there but never finished it off for some reason. Maybe when winter hits again and the evenings are long, I will get back to completing it.

Hand sewing and beading are real highlights for me. I find it quite therapeutic to tack and hand stitch my clothes and actually really dislike having to sew them together on the sewing machine. I guess that’s why I loved making this ballgown. Amongst all the different parts that make up this gown, my favourite detail would have to be the sleeves. I absolutely love bell or gathered sleeves. Interesting to see bell sleeve garments making a huge come back at the moment…  DSC_9985a

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Beautiful tunnel of 300 year old beech trees at the Schlosspark

 

STYLING: mask – handmade Venetian, necklace and bracelet – Zara, shoes – stilista

LOCATION: Palace gardens Schlosspark, Brühl, Germany