It took me a few days to hit upon inspiration for the RTW copycat challenge. I sew all of my own clothes—ALL of them. It’s been at least a year since I’ve been in a clothing store, & even longer since I purchased RTW. I generally draw inspiration from other sewing blogs rather than runway designs or mass market trends. But then it came to me: Patti Smith on the cover of her album “Horses”.
“Horses” was Patti’s debut record. (I hope she won’t mind my calling her “Patti” throughout this post.) It was released in 1975 & is now considered one of the best & most influential albums ever made. Here’s a link to her version of “Gloria“.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti’s partner at the time, took the photo used for the album cover. It’s a stark, simple, black & white image of Patti standing near a window, wearing a white men’s button-down, a black jacket slung over her shoulder. A black ribbon is dangling from her collar. Her record company was not thrilled with the photo, because it showcased a degree of androgyny that was central to Patti’s personal style, but not considered especially “marketable” for female recording artists in the mid-70s. The photo is now iconic. Even people who have never heard Patti’s music have probably seen the photo at some point.
The look is a departure from my usual style in that I have a rather, shall we say, “pneumatic” figure, & generally feel most comfortable in clothing that shows my curves. I worry that boxy, more androgynous cuts that look so great on very slim women like Patti just make me look lumpy. I have always avoided button-down shirts & blazers, because I have narrow shoulders for my frame, & anything that fits my shoulders is straining everywhere else, & what fits my bust & waist is enormous through the shoulders. But that’s the magic of sewing. You can experiment with styles you may have avoided in RTW because you can customize the fit for your unique body!
I chose to make three garments for this challenge: the Ginger jeans from Closet Case Files (view A, the low-waisted cut with stovepipe legs), the Archer button-down from Grainline Studio (view A in the classic button-down cut with long sleeves–I got this in last month’s indie pattern swap, so thanks again, swap partner!), & the Luffa jacket from Waffle Patterns. Let’s talk about them one by one, starting with the jacket (& allow me to apologize in advance for the long post; three garments means I have a lot to say!):
LUFFA JACKET FROM WAFFLE PATTERNS
Patti has a black jacket slung over her shoulder in the inspiration photo. I could have done something simple & unlined, but I instead sought out a jacket with a curvy, feminine silhouette to contrast the boxy masculinity of the Archer button-down. The Luffa jacket is a princess-seamed shawl collar jacket, & sewing this baby is not for the faint of heart. It has two welt pockets & is fully lined (with separate pattern pieces for the lining, which is pleated to create wearing ease). The jacket is hemmed by hand, & the lining is then hand-sewn to the jacket hem. It’s all a quite clever design, with all the seam enclosed, but it demands precision sewing.
I did a 2” FBA & lengthened the body of the jacket by 1”. I also added piping to the collar seam & made bound buttonholes. I chose velvet-covered buttons from M&J Trimming. Should you choose to make this jacket (& you should! It’s a fun challenge), accept that you can’t really cut any corners. Ease in your collar facing carefully, clip those curves, & understitch. The English language directions in the pattern leave something to be desired, but the illustrations are excellent.
Originally, I planned to make this jacket up in black twill I had in my stash. But I couldn’t shake a vision of seeing it in black velveteen. I also special ordered the satin I used for the lining. There was a gorgeous white-on-black print of a galloping horse on Spoonflower. Since my jacket was inspired by the cover of an album called “Horses”…Well, I went a bit literal there, but I really think the print makes the jacket.
The downside is that this satin was an absolute nightmare to work with. It began unraveling the second it was cut. It wouldn’t take a press at all. To hem it, I turned it under with my fingers quarter-inch by quarter-inch, stitching as I went. It literally took hours because it was unraveling & shedding all over me. & it seemed to show every single needle mark, like leather. It was far & away the most difficult fabric I have ever worked with, & I make my own bras using filmy bits of sheer nylon!
GINGER JEANS FROM CLOSET CASE PATTERNS
The jeans were the only one of the three patterns I’d made before this challenge (for the February “UFO” challenge!). In fact, I’d never made a pattern from Grainline or Waffle before!
I chose the stovepipe leg option because that was a popular cut in the New York City punk scene of the 1970s. We can’t see exactly how Patti’s jeans are cut, but I’d bet money they have a stovepipe leg. I wanted a mid-rise (both for personal preference & in keeping with the 70s cut). Raising the rise 1” & sewing the waistband on with a slightly smaller seam allowance was enough to give me the extra height I needed, as I’m fairly short-waisted.
I used gray stretch twill in homage to the black & white inspiration photo. I topstitched in black thread, both to challenge myself (your topstitching has to be on point when it’s in a contrast color) & to tie in with the black topstitching on my button-down. A word about topstitching: I used Gutermann heavy duty jeans thread. It’s what I’ve always used in the past, but I recently did some topstitching with Gutermann button thread, which is just a touch more lightweight. I prefer it by leaps & bounds. I’ve never seen it in my local shops, but it comes in hundreds of different colors on wawak.com.
In 2010, Patti was interviewed about her personal style by the “New York Times”. In the last forty years, she has become a fashion icon. The designer Ann Demeulemeester has done entire collections inspired by Patti’s tough, androgynous style. Patti told the interviewer that her style was very “look at me, don’t look at me,” so I used the alphabet stitches on my sewing machine to write “look at me” on one of the back pockets of my jeans & “do not look at me” on the other. It’s a pretty good synopsis of my own personal style, really.
I made my waistband facing & pocket bags from scraps of the black satin print I chose for my jacket lining (& yes, it was a nightmare to work with, but it looks really nice). I mostly made the jeans from memory, having made them before, but there’s a detailed sew-along on the Closet Case Files website that I consulted for some of the trickier bits, like the fly.
ARCHER BUTTON-DOWN FROM GRAINLINE STUDIO
I did a 2” FBA using the slide & pivot method, which was a new technique for me, but one that worked really well on a dartless pattern like the Archer. I know some women with larger busts (I’m a 40D) have added darts to the Archer for necessary shaping, but I really wanted to maintain the boxy cut of the original design & the inspiration shirt. I also slashed & spread to add another 2” at the hipline. I shortened the sleeves 1”. Having made a veritable army of shirtdresses, I didn’t consult the directions much, but it’s another one with a detailed sew-along provided by the designer. It was useful for keeping track of the some of construction techniques that are specific to this pattern, like the button placket installation.
The biggest change I made was to add pintucks & flat piping. On the cover of “Horses,” Patti has a black ribbon hanging around her neck. A lot of people see it as suspenders or an untied necktie. (Patti Smith on the cover of “Horses” has been the inspiration for more than one costume, giving me an opportunity to see how other people have interpreted the look.) I decided to cut the shirt fronts as panels so I could add a strip of flat piping made from the same black satin print as my jacket lining. It would achieve a similar effect as the ribbon, but be more of a fun (?) challenge to sew, & I also liked the idea of bringing the satin into all three garments in different ways.
Since I was making panels anyway, why not add some pintucks? I’ve been wanting to add pintucks to something for a long time. I just slashed & spread & did a lot of taping & made six pintucks on either side of the placket. I don’t have a pintuck foot, so these were sewn the old-fashioned way, by pressing each pintuck in half & then stitching very carefully exactly 1/4” from the fold, pressing to set the stitches, pressing the tuck in the right direction (away from the placket), & so on. My shirting didn’t take a press super-well—it’s a bit on the bouncy side. But we got there in the end!
I went all in with black topstitching on my placket, collar, & cuffs, & black buttons. I basically made myself a tuxedo shirt! It’s definitely different from Patti’s shirt, but I was really just riffing off the inspiration her image gave me.
I also flat-felled the sleeve & side seams using an Islander Sewing Systems technique I found on Youtube, adding another indie pattern designer & IPM sponsor to the mix for this challenge!
So! That’s my Patti Smith-inspired RTW knock-off outfit. I apologize for only having indoor photos, but it’s been 100 degrees here & both the jacket & the shirt are made from fabrics better-suited to cooler weather. I’ve had heatstroke before, & as much as I enjoy the Monthly Stitch, I didn’t want to get it again! & staying inside gave me a chance to try to copy Patti’s pose against a bare wall. It’s harder than it looks! (By the way, “ungulate” is a term for hoofed mammals, like horses. & hippos, llamas, tapirs, bison, etc. Plus it’s fun to say!) PS–Here’s a link to my blog!
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So good !…The idea….the execution…the humour…the details….I especially love the black patterned edging to your pin tucks in place of her ribbon such good observation. Excellent !
Thanks so much! That black piping was a pain in the ass to sew (it just started unraveling as soon as it was cut), but I like how it came out!
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AH-MAZ-ING! You have set the bar HIGH! This is a wonderful RTW and such an inspired approach love it. All the work that went into the shirt? Mind blown! Congratulations!
Thank you so much! The shirt was so much fun to make. I am now scheming on how to add pintucks to everything! & I am really thrilled to have added a silhouette to my wardrobe that was seriously lacking. Can you believe I have NEVER worn a button-down shirt in my entire life? I just assumed they wouldn’t work for me because my bust is so much bigger than my shoulders. I’d never found a RTW button-down that fit properly. I can’t wait for the weather to cool off so I can wear it all the time!
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Wow, I am impressed on so many levels! I love how you took inspiration from an iconic image but let your creativity shine through it all.
The whole outfit looks amazing, but even more, I bet it’ll make you happy whenever you wear it, even more than other handmade clothes, because of all the process and work!
And finally, I loved your post! I loved learning about Patti Smith, about your thought process and about your sewing. Congratulations and thank you! 🙂
Thank you! Yeah, I really enjoyed making this outfit, but I also loved researching it & sharing some of what I learned. I don’t really follow fashion, so learning that Patti Smith is friends with & a big inspiration for Ann Demeulmeester was interesting to me. I looked through her runway shows on vogue.com & you can really see the inspiration, but also the high-fashion twist she puts on it. & the fact that at the end of the day, these three garments are fairly basic separates that will fit right into my existing wardrobe. I love how the challenges on the Monthly Stitch always push me a little bit outside my comfort zone, & I end up making garments that get a ton of love. (This morning I wore the swimsuit I made for the May challenge to the pool, & now I’m wearing my “hack it” challenge dress!)
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Amazing! So much work went into that outfit! I can’t believe you’re posting it so early in the challenge – I’ve still got one and a half garments to make!
Well, I started working on it a few weeks ago. I just finished the jacket (the last piece) on Monday afternoon. I set myself a weird personal challenge to be the first to post when each new contest opens, & I did it! A dubious distinction, I confess. It means that the “hack it” challenge feels like it was months ago, even though it just closed yesterday, haha. Anyway, thanks, & good luck with your sewing!
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Love Patti Smith! Love your whole outfit! Brava!
Thanks so much!
Really well copied look, the pin tucks are great (and something I should spend more time working on) the flat piping is fab. Great look and you can tell the time and effort that went into it.
Thanks so much! The pintucks were really fun. After the first three, I was like, “Oh my God, years will pass before this is done,” but I was pretty fast by the end. & I love how they came out!
YES YES YES!!!!!!
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Wow! There’s so much work here! I love, love love the shirt and all the pintucks, and I’m so impressed you top stitched in black. This is a wonderful copy, I imagine Patty would be proud.
Thank you! Believe me, I was terrified to do the black topstitching. Especially on the shirt. I NEVER get the undercollar topstitching right on the first try. This time I accepted that pressing alone was not enough. I pressed & then I hand-basted down all the folds & THEN I topstitched & then I picked out my basting. It was more work, for sure, but when you are doing black topstitching on white or gray fabric, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for mistakes.
what a great tribute to Patti! I love her minimal androgynous style – you’ve pulled it off perfectly and sewn it beautifully!
Thank you so much!
You are amazing! Loved learning (so much) from your post, your inspiration and your follow through, and the detailed touches… those pockets? Fuhgetaboutit!
Thank you! I know there are plenty of people reading this who have no idea who Patti Smith is, so I thought it would be fun to include some background for people who are curious, along with some links to tutorials that helped me with the sewing. The pockets were really fun! Now I want to put messages on all my pockets!