Good fit is less about size and more about fabric, which should pour evenly down the body, says Jacque Goldsmith, a Seattle tailor and freelance sewing instructor. Complicating things: Many of us have breasts or other assured bulges, and along with fittings come spicy mental battles usually involving criteria and one's failure to meet them. "Talking about bodies is a sensitive thing," Jacque says, padding a mannequin's bust so we can study the effects on a garment's grainlines. Up close, a blouse becomes just an arrangement of strands. Some are curved while others hang straight, and suddenly, I see the shapes as Jacque does: without judgment.
Because Jacque has such an intense understanding of garment construction, she was hired several years ago to oversee production in a string of overseas factories. Thankfully, she witnessed no especially soul-damaging scenes; most of her anecdotes are interesting and offhand. In China, the factories have ping-pong tables in break rooms, for instance. In India, only the men sew. But a human rawness seeps in as she talks: Workers tend to sleep on the floor, or resting on giant reams of fabric. For dyeing, rather than metal vats with computerized paddles evenly circulating the solution, sometimes it's just a guy flailing around in a tub, moving the liquid and hoisting the piles of fabric himself.
Back in her Ballard home studio, Jacque also designs clothes, infesting existing patterns with unexpected fabrics. An elegant raincoat with spare seams and a tidy silhouette, developed from a vintage pattern, is boxy and feminine at once. It's constructed with polyurethane-coated paper, an industrial material commonly used for pencil bags and shoe insoles, as well as a covering for plywood boards. The fabric frayed too wildly to stitch, so Jacque melted the seams together instead.
She also produced her own version of a Chanel jacket, the original design of which is widely accepted as gorgeous and innovative. Swooping gold chains bring glitz but anchor the hem, and Coco so carefully shaped the armholes, the wearer could pinwheel her arms as the body stayed in place. Defiling the fantasy of glamour, Jacque chose a heather-gray cotton knit—distantly recalling gas-station gift stores and drug dealers and mid-evening hangovers. The effect is delightful. There's also a retro-inspired housecoat made from "the ugliest fabrics in the world": the shell is an eyelash lamé (named for the straggly wisps of silver, like Christmas tinsel, seeming to float up from its surface) and the lining is a clammy textile, synthetic, in shrieking orange. Altogether the finished piece is really cute, somehow.
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