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Fall Palette Challenge Week 5: A Modified Meringue


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This past weekend, I stopped by the Kate Spade store downtown. We were running errands in the neighborhood, and I’d never been in to see their lovely clothes in person.

As a sewist, one thing I do in higher end stores is check out all the construction details on clothing. Do you do this too? It’s fun to see how well-made ready-to-wear is put together, and to get ideas for your own projects.

So I was looking at the inside of this very pretty (hot pink!) coat, and the saleswomen thought that I must have been very interested in purchasing it because they kept urging me to try it on. Out of curiosity, I looked at the price tag.

It was $700. Way beyond my means.

Now, I’m not saying that a well-made coat in a great fabric isn’t worth that amount. But as a seamstress myself, I can have a tailor made one of similar quality for about $100. And I’ll tell you one thing, it wouldn’t have an acetate lining.

When people say that sewing doesn’t save you money, I think they’re talking about the inexpensive, disposable clothing that you can buy everywhere these days. If you have champagne tastes and a beer budget, though… you can invest your time and know-how to get “expensive” looking clothes for not a lot of dough.

All this is to say that I am very happy with the way this skirt looks, both inside and out. Even though it’s really simple, it’s also very well made.

The fabric is this really interesting bright tomato red wool. What makes it interesting is the weave. Allow me to indulge in a little fabric geekery here. Check it out.

Do you see what’s so cool about it? The fabric is woven askew! It’s a normal, plain weave, but the threads run diagonally instead of straight up and down. What this means is that the fabric actually stretches across the width and length even though it has no lycra, just like if it had been cut on the bias. Pretty neat, huh?

I lined the skirt in a bright red stretch silk crepe de chine. Since the wool stretches, I chose a stretch lining too.

The pattern is Meringue from The Colette Sewing Handbook, but I cut it without scallops. This is really easy, you basically just fold the curves of the scallops back on the pattern before you cut, and you have a super simple a-line skirt.

But of course the real feature are the cool 60s’looking pockets, right? I swiped the pockets from the Negroni pattern for this, but just rounded the edges of the flaps and finished them with cream bias binding. Super easy, and I love the crisp look.

Oh, and this is my new (vintage) silk scarf, a souvenier scarf from the Côte d’azur, with the names of different places all over it (Saint Tropez, Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes, etc). Can you tell I’m obsessed with scarves?

So that’s it for the Fall Palette Challenge from me this week! Hope you all are coming along and making some nice stuff too.

Some other posts you may be interested in:

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 33

Anna | Mormor hade stil

Love the pocket detail!


The pockets are a great addition to that skirt! I really adore the fabric too; bulky wovens of that style are always a favorite of mine this time of year. :)


What a fantastic outfit! I always look to Kate Spade (among other brands) for sewing inspiration, because even their sales are well beyond my means. I also look at how things are constructed! But I find myself doing it while people are talking and I’m not listening. I look like I’m paying attention, but really I’m looking at lace details or sleeve lengths or topstitching. Trickery, I tell you.


What I like about Kate Spade is that the shapes are generally really simple, but the colors, fabric, prints, and styling are all phenomenal. Perfect sewing inspiration!


I’m always turning high-end apparel inside-out to look at the finishing, and isn’t it funny how often the results are surprisingly disappointing? Some of the choices that are made to simplify manufacturing really bring down the quality of what is supposed to be luxury merchandise, so much that I start to feel that only the quality of fabric is bringing the price up, not the construction details at all.

I love this example of bias binding used like piping! I just found a new on-seam pocket application that I’m just itching to use this finishing technique on. I’m lifting it from a pajama pant pattern of all things! You never know where you’ll find a great technique…


Yes, that’s true. I think you have to be really interested in clothes (like us) to recognize these things, though.


So…maybe it’s time to make a classic coat pattern for your line…. Just sayin’. I would certainly buy it.


I’d love to… but we’ll see, I’m not even thinking about next Fall yet!


I would buy it too!


Yes! – I inspect the insides of anything well made carefully! I started doing in seam pockets with French seams after seeing that in an Anthropologie dress. I love Kate Spade’s look, but don’t actually shop there. Let’s say champagne taste and a boxed wine budget. I think you’re absolutely right about saving money. Even with baby clothes, I can have boutique looking items for the cost of Carter’s. It’s getting hard to buy her expensive things because I could do it myself. Of course, one can’t sew actually sew everything, so time has to be taken into account. For $700, I would expect a silk or at least Bemberg lining, wouldn’t you? For a $300 coat, I can except acetate.


Yes to your point on time. I have so many things I want to make, and not nearly enough time to do it all. I’ve been sewing most of my own clothes lately, but all the things I’d planned to make for my house have been languishing. Need more time!

I agree about the lining. I find it really disappointing to see very expensive coats with cheap linings. I know it raises the cost and most people don’t know the difference between acetate and rayon. But it sucks to have some lovely wool and then ruin the breathability with acetate or poly!


i love sneaky-shopping for construction details! we actually just had a nordstrom open here in nashville, and i can’t wait to go by on my own & peer inside all the high-end clothes & steal their ideas :)


For department stores, Neiman Marcus is a fantastic place to idea shop as well.

Tonya Richard

That skirt is gorgeous! I am still making my clothing from fabric I can get at Joanns, I am not confident enough in my skills to spend $20+ a yard on good fabric. I cringe when I spend $10. But even though I use less than wonderful fabric, my clothes are still so much better made than anything I can buy in a store. I shop at Target and TJ Maxx, so it isn’t difficult to make something better LOL Once day, I will bite the bullet and make myself something fabulous out of high end material.


I highly recommend the approach of finding a dreamy fabric, then doing something very simple with it! You feel more confident doing something easy, and you can spend the extra time on cool construction details.


Joann’s does have the odd nice piece of fabric here and there. Maybe you can plan to go during one of their crazy coupon times and use a nice fabric for a pattern you’ve already tried (and mastered!)

Another alternative that broke me of my cheap-fabric-buying was when someone asked me to make them a special occasion skirt and bought a ton of shantung silk. I was extra careful, finished the seams well, and learned alot– at no expense to me! A lot of work but worth the learning opportunity.

Tonya Richard

Yes Sarai, I have thought about taking one of my simpler tried and true patterns and using good fabric. One day I want to make my daughters’ wedding dresses and I will not be using polyester bridal fabric from joanns! I need to start small lol

Lindsay, I have come across some decent fabric at Joann’s, especially some of the 100% cotton. We are getting a bigger and better Joanns next month where I live and they are supposed to have lots more fabric. I am hoping maybe some of it is better quality. I really do like to see and feel my fabric before buying it and except for a bridal fabric store in my area, Joann and Hancocks are all I’ve got!


Wow, that skirt is AMAZING. Love the 60s vibe. x


So true about higher-end details being affordable when you learn to create them yourself. I love the comments above about Kate Spade and Nordstrom’s, because I had the same experience at a Nordstrom’s ‘The Rack” and Saks “Off 5th” recently! Walking around I saw so many items that were fairly simple, but in beautiful or unusual fabrics. (Exhibit A: a voile scarf with frayed ends for $60. I loved it, but really?)

I’m always excited to use higher-end techniques and better fabrics… it really changes how you feel about/treat your handmade garments!


So incredibly beautiful! Not the first time this site has inspired me to scrutinize the things out of my price range and attempt it at home. This is a gorgeous skirt, and you look ultrachic. The closeup of the fabric is deluxe!


I love looking at the construction of high-end clothes. I found a pair of Chanel shorts the other day at a consignment score and they had little silk guards sewn into the crotch to prevent chaffing. I loved this touch and definitely plan to add them to my shorts next summer.
I completely agree with you, Sarai. Sewing isn’t (always) cheap if you tend to buy disposable clothing. I tend to buy classic, high quality pieces that last me years (like 10+) and they aren’t cheap. However, I can sew a garment for under $50 that would have normally cost me $200. Besides, I get hours of enjoyment out of the process!
Your skirt is beautiful! Wonderful job!


Ooh, wow! Another gorgeous item from a very talented lady. Well done!


First time commenting here! I loved this post, and I completely agree that you really can’t compare shoddily made disposable clothing with a solid self-made piece in a great fabric. Also, how exciting to get to make something!

I’m just now getting to the place where I feel confident enough in my skills to buy nicer fabric. Also, I’ve started forcing myself to make a muslin to reduce the panic I get when I cut into the good stuff.

Thanks for sharing your beautiful skirt! The quality material and construction shows.

Laura Isabel

Thanks Sarai for showcasing the no-scallops version of this skirt. I love the color and I love the style. I am going to make many of these for all seasons. Does that type of wool have a proper name?


I’ve just recently been thinking about this (making clothes out of better quality fabrics) because I’m making a dress for my sister as payment for hairstyling services for our family. She works at a higher end salon so I couldn’t just slap something together our of any old cheap fabric. So I bit the bullet and got some nice wool suiting the dress will be the most expensive thing I’ve ever made but if she tried to but it RTW she wouldn’t be able to afford it, so it will be a nice exchange.


That’s such a lovely thing to do! I hope she likes it! :)


I love your work and especially appreciate how much thought you put into your designs. I find it aggravating when looking at what is supposed to be a high end garment and discovering things like cheap fabrics and shoddy construction. I’ve always treated good clothing as an investment, not having the means to support a throw-away wardrobe and sewing is a large part of that philosophy. I can’t wait til I have your new book in hand!


Kate Spade is one of my favorite clothing lines, exactly because of what you mentioned; the great fabrics, simple designs and excellent finishes. (That coat lining being an exception.) Those are the things I focus on in sewing clothes for myself, and I find that using great fabrics inspires me to do my best work. Good quality lasts forever; as a vintage lover I know that if I make something well it can have a long, long life. A lot of the vintage I see on Etsy right now is hand made!

On another subject, I am looking forward to getting your book!

liza jane

I love this so much! The pockets look like little smiles :) I am looking forward to the book, too.


Hi Sarai,
This red skirt is very nice!
J’aime bien sa coupe!
Have a good evening!

Eleanor (undeadgoat)

My understanding of the structure of that fabric from my “Fabric and Apparel Structures I” class, and from being a fabric-making person, is that technically you would call that fabric “plaited,” not woven–I am VERY interested to see a picture of the selvedge if you have any scraps left!


That’s great to know! I’m pretty sure I have some craps left, I’ll check.


LOVE this skirt! I’m curious about the lining . . . the pattern in the book does not call for a lining, but I would very much like to include one in my skirt. Do you need a lining AND a facing? It seems like it would be neater to have both, but I am concerned about bulk. Maybe you can just put the interfacing on the lining? I would be very grateful if you can point me to a tutorial or instructions about adding a lining. Thanks!

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