Warning – after reading this article, your perspective on fine clothing may never be the same!  At least that is what happened to me when I learned to sew about 15 years ago.  I’d always been around sewing: my mother did exquisite heirloom handwork and smocked dresses for my sister and me; my grandmother famously made pajamas for all of her 7 grandchildren every Christmas.


But I really hadn’t learned how to sew until, on a whim, I signed up for a sewing class at the local community college in the late 90’s.  “Clothing Construction 101” was quite a learning experience!  By the end of the class I had my very own elastic waist pull on skirt and a matching pullover top, which come to think of it, sort of resembled hospital scrubs.  I continued sewing, eventually learning how to make buttonholes and apply zippers, and I now view fashion differently than I did in my “non-sewing” days.  Let me teach you a few of the basics which I think you will find interesting and informative.



THE SEAM ALLOWANCE – Your new best friend!

So for you beginners, a seam allowance is the amount of fabric beyond the seam when the garment is turned inside out.  Standard seam allowance is 5/8 of an inch.  However, in a quality garment, the seam allowance can be as much as 1 inch.  What this means for you is that the garment can more easily be let out to accommodate changes in your figure over time.



One great example of a taiilor-friendly seam allowance can be seen in Etcetera’s ESPRESSO pant from the Fall collection and the similar GRAVEL pant (below) from Holiday.  The waistband of this style is a tailor’s dream come true!  For example, if the pants fit great through the legs and hips but are a little tight in the waist, there is enough fabric in the waistband to let it out for a perfect fit.  Seam allowances can enable alterations in dresses and skirts too, as long as there is enough fabric.  The bigger the seam allowance, the better your chance for that perfect fit!





Now that you’re paying attention to the details, you’ll start noticing all of the ways a quality garment can be enhanced with special stitches such as quilting, appliqué and entredeux.  Quilting adds loft to a garment and can even change the look of the fabric.  Etcetera’s ARTISANAL skirt from the Fall collection is a great example of the effect of quilting.  The skirt fabric is backed with netting and decoratively quilted in a floral design.  This transforms the fabric into the look of a unique faux leather – all due to the extra effort it took to quilt the fabric.



The PITCH jacket is expertly quilted in a channel design, creating warmth as well as visual interest.



Similarly, fabric can be decoratively stitched or embroidered onto another fabric, in a technique called appliqué, to make the garment much more interesting. Etcetera’s OKAPI pencil skirt has a zebra patterned brown velvet reverse appliqué on top of a white cotton background.  The effect is vibrant and stunning, with so much depth!




Entredeux, also known as faggoting, is another interesting stitching technique that joins two pieces of fabric, or can even be used to attach lace to a garment:



On Etcetera’s PALACE blouse, decorative entredeux is attached at the button placket and cuffs, creating interest and femininity; the TEMPTRESS blouse has 5 rows of faggoting ribbon trim along with gathered lace ruffles —  I’ve never seen such a gorgeous black blouse, due in large part to the stitching embellishments.



Finally, another special stitching technique is the French seam, where seams are double-folded and double-stitched together to totally enclose and hide the raw edge:



In Etcetera’s JEWELTONES circle skirt from the Holiday collection, each panel is French-seamed, which creates a very flattering drape to this leopard print skirt.





No discussion of dressmaker details would be complete without mentioning lace, and since it is one of the season’s hottest trends you will see it everywhere.  Etcetera’s KITTY sweater, BEWITCH knit top, and PARIS dress use it as a trim, while the FEMME dress (below) and DATENIGHT knit top use it for the sleeves and the back of the garment.  Even where no actual lace is used, lace designs are printed onto fabrics, such as the DARKEDGE and SERAFINA dresses.  Lace is light, airy and oh-so-feminine.



I hope that this introduction to dressmaker details inspires you to take delight in the little things that turn a garment into a work of art.  Who knows — maybe your local community college or fabric store has a clothing construction class you’d like to join!


Margaret Cavin has been an Etcetera Sales Consultant for 8 exciting years.  She loves helping her customers create a closet full of clothes they love to wear and when she’s not reading InStyle or rearranging closets, she loves to run and stay physically fit.  A native Floridian, Margaret also loves exploring National Parks and learning about different countries and cultures.




October 21st, 2014

Vintage, retro, #tbt, fashion of yesterday and today….If your idea of the history of costume is comparing Wilma Flinstone’s fashions to Jane Jetson’s, or stepping into your own closet, read on!  There is much to be gleaned from looking at the fashions of the past. Yes, history does repeat itself and influences how we dress today.


The ’60′s

Let’s look to the past fifty years of fashion.  The 60’s conjure up fashion images of Jackie Kennedy with her Chanel suit and pillbox hat, Twiggy in her short dress and to-die-for skinny legs, and Mary Quant and the mini-skirt.  The basic style was simple, neat, trim, and colorful while the Hippie and psychedelic movements brought bell-bottomed jeans, tie-dye, and paisley prints to the fashion scene causing quite a paradox.  Today we still see the Chanel-like suit, short dresses and skirts, paisley prints with refined bell-bottoms finding their way back to our closets.



The ’70′s

The 70’s Disco music influenced fashion with figure-hugging knits made of Lurex and polyester.  Farrah Fawcett made wearing pants feminine and Diana Von Furstenberg’s signature wrap dress hit the scene.   Flash forward …we still love our figure-hugging knits, aka Lululemon and leggings, trousers are all over the runway, and the faux-wrap dress, ANIMALE, is one of Etcetera’s best sellers.


The ’80′s

1980 brought bold shoulders, aerobic-wear, and Gordon Gekko’s ‘greed is good’ in the form of designer jeans and over-dressing.  The TV series ‘Dynasty’ is best remembered for Joan Collins and her iconic shoulder pads. Other notable icons for the 80’s include the beloved Lady Diana and not so beloved Madonna.  What 1980’s bride didn’t have miles of chiffon and puff, similar to Diana, guaranteeing our daughters not to wear our dresses when they got married?  Only Madonna had the chameleon-like ability to regularly transform her look from punk, to hip-hop, to geisha, to navel-bearing miniskirts, followed by the military look.  Coco Chanel’s quote, “It is always better to be slightly underdressed”, was somehow lost on the 80’s, yet we’re finding bolder shoulders back and more elegant in the form of wraps and cocoon-silhouettes.



The ’90′s

It’s no surprise that the designs of Giorgio Armani gained popularity towards the end of the twentieth century.  After the 80’s of ‘more is better’, the 90’s minimalism was a welcome trend.  Clothes were comfortable, wearable, urban. Armani’s deconstructed jacket became the power suit for men and women.

Rachel Green from ‘Friends’ comes to mind with her white tee’s and jeans.  Who today doesn’t love wearing their favorite jeans and a bleach-white t-shirt?  It’s hard to overstate the impact that Mickey Drexler, COO of The GAP, had on the dress styles of women of all ages in the ’90′s, making jeans and khakis an ubiquitous part of the everyday wardrobe. By pairing jeans with a blazer and swapping out sneakers for a flat shoe or boot, jeans invaded our wardrobes, whether for work or a night out. ETC Red Label epitomizes the comfortable, wearable trend of the 90’s and the always necessary Necessities have your white tee in color and a variety of styles.


Enter the new millennium with the popularity of vintage clothing, color, feminine, excessive and anti-modern looks.  Think the Olsen Twins, Carrie Bradshaw and the cast of Gossip Girls.  Oversized tee’s, gobs of vintage jewelry, sky-high stilettos, huge handbags, and designer labels were worn by not just the girls of the upper-east-side, but most of America.




Today we are influenced by Rihanna, Kate Middleton and Vogue editor Anna Wintour to name a few:  Rihanna making her own trends, a daring dresser with a diverse range of tastes; Kate sticking with classics, whether kicking a soccer ball in her colored jeans or attending the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee affair in her Alexander McQueen gown; and Anna telling us what’s, ahem, in vogue.



One history of costume lesson we can take from this brief ride down memory lane is that the greatest form of flattery is imitation. As Coco Chanel stated, “Only successful things are copied.”  Fashion, like history, repeats itself.  The originality is in your personal style, when your inside is as beautiful as the outside.  So whether your fashion is from this decade or the past, from cartoons or TV characters, celebrities or musicians, princesses, first ladies, or designers, the most beautiful look is… you!



JoEllyn Slott, Etcetera Sales Consultant

JoEllen and business partner, Carolyn Crawford, have owned their own Etcetera agency in Germantown, TN, since 2001. They say their goal is to create compliments for their customers, and Etcetera makes that easy!  JoEllyn is a trainer for new sales consultants, and says she is honored to be a guest blogger, having not been published since her high school newspaper.




October 15th, 2014

When you think of man-made fibers, do visions of Saturday Night Fever, polyester leisure suits, and your grandmother’s double-knit pastel sherbet pantsuit come to mind?


Early polyester fabric did not breathe and was the equivalent of wearing a plastic bag.  Man-made fabrics were stiff, rough, shiny, retained odors, and didn’t drape.  Goodness knows it is easy to see why they were rejected!


But just as technology has vastly improved most things in our lives, technology has impacted the world of fabrics! Don’t see it?  Well, just take at look how technology has changed the world around us.  Remember early computers?  They are a far cry from what we know today.



How about cell phones?



I believe if you were to ask any designer what has significantly changed in the fashion industry, they would tell you fabrics!  Fortunately, technology kept plugging away, and synthetic fibers dramatically improved, no longer carrying the déclassé stigma of early polyester.  Whether we are talking about a natural fiber or one that has been made by man, each has unique characteristics with both pros and cons.  Blending fibers gives you the best of both worlds.  In today’s world, wool, cashmere, cotton, and silk are often blended with man-made fibers.



Designers know the way a garment falls is determined by the quality of the textile used.  Italy holds the unquestionable supremacy in the textile market, and our design team selects the very best Ponte fabrics from Italy.  For many top designers, Ponte di Roma is a favorite, season after season.  What’s not to love?  It’s tough, recovers when you stretch it, doesn’t wrinkle, the hand is soft, the knit is pliable, and stays looking great over time.  It is probably one of the most comfortable fabrics we have today, and I cannot imagine wearing leggings made from anything else.


Etcetera has quite the collection of beautiful items made from this miracle fabric.




Another great technologically advanced fabric is Scuba tech.  Scuba has nothing to do with scuba diving.  It is another double-knit fabric, similar to ponte.  Scuba is generally polyester and elastane and ponte is viscose, polyamide and elastane.


Scuba tech has another benefit — it can practically be worn all year round.  We love it!



By the way, Lycra is DuPont’s trademark name.  Spandex is the common term used in the U.S. and Elastane is the term used in the rest of the world.  So, regardless whether you see Elastane, Spandex, or Lycra on the label, it is a horse of the same color.


Many consumers want to avoid real leathers.  Stella McCartney is known for her eco-friendly philosophy.  She does not use real leather at all.  However, she does use man-made fabrics in her clothing.  Etcetera also offers vegan leather alternatives.  One of the advantages of man-made leather, is it does not have special dry cleaning requirements.



Today’s man-made fabrics are so good you’ll be hard pressed to tell if it’s real silk or not if you don’t read the label.  Keep an open mind to these man-made fabrics and you will be surprised just how luxurious they can be!


Claudia Phillips is an Etcetera Area Development Manager in the Tar Heel State of North Carolina. A Chicago, transplant, Claudia is a born fashionista. While playing Barbie with her young girlfriends, Claudia loved helping the other “Barbies” get dressed for the big interview, courtroom case, or night on the town with Ken. A certified master stylist, Claudia loves sharing her expertise by training sales consultants to help in her mission to make America beautiful – one woman at a time.





I’m a skirt girl, without a doubt!  There is just something so girly about them; you’re automatically in a feminine frame of mind when you slip one on. With so many different skirt lengths, textures, and patterns available, I am kicking up my heels and finally ready to break out those tights and boots!


What’s so great about skirts? Well, for starters, they are so versatile. Paired with t-shirts or jackets to make an unmatched suit, or mixing and matching casual and dressy pieces, the combinations are endless.  Oh, and let’s also think about the comfort. You can’t beat the fluidity of a full skirt or maxi!!


The range of styles this season shows that no one skirt trend dominates the fashion scene. Long and short, slim and full, plain and patterned — they all work! What’s fun, too, is that this one piece of clothing looks so good with such a variety of tops, from blouses and tunics, to turtlenecks and blazers.


ETCETERA offers so many key shapes, stylish prints and rich fabrics –it makes me want to twirl in delight! Here are some skirt must-haves and recommendations for you to update your “skirt section” in your closet this fall and winter.


Once regarded as part of a humdrum work uniform, the pencil skirt is now THE skirt to own. You can easily add a sleek pencil skirt with a fun printed pattern or a bright color to your wardrobe and pull double duty at the office and cocktail hour!!  Of course, I am all about the ladylike lace and just love JAUNTY.



For another feminine option, VICTORIAN is a perfectly pretty patterned pencil in pink (say that three times!). Pastels are a big trend and this is a fabulous skirt that is great paired with a basic white blouse, a pale silky blouse or a casual sweater, for a layered look.



There is nothing classier than MAESTRO, a stretch houndstooth pencil skirt, for a chic, comfy work option. Any pencil skirt can be tempered with a solid-colored blouse or sweater and sleek pumps by day, then revved up with boots for night.




A fluted hem gives skirts a flippy, flirtatious vibe. The fluted bottom (or fit & flare skirt) really helps balance women who are broad-shouldered — bigger on the top than they are on the bottom. If you are perfectly proportioned (aren’t you lucky), all you need is a fitted top to balance out their voluminous proportions; try a cozy yet snug sweater in a neutral hue like black or white so the detail of your skirt makes a statement.  I love Etcetera’s WITTY skirt and darling coordinating top as a flirty work or evening option. The THRILLER skirt is a fabulous statement fluted skirt that is trimmed in faux fur. It is a fabulous find!



With full skirts, you fashionistas may only be thinking of the granny-chic trends, but the full skirt does not have to be for church luncheons only. Instead, it can be your go-to date night outfit for fall! Team JEWELTONES, Etcetera’s circle skirt, with a turtleneck sweater or feminine blouse, cropped jacket, and ankle boots for a look that’s pretty and chic!




Sporty and sassy, the latest in mini skirts has a slight A-line, ’60′s vibe. You can jazz these minis up with any style flat shoe or boot, or for an edgier look, add a stylish ankle boot or a tall over-the-knee boot. Etcetera’s TAOS mini metallic jacquard has texture and sparkle for interest and fun. It’s perfect by day or night! BORDER is a great shape and fit for our friends with curves and is perfect for work or weekend. And, our new AMARYLLIS is a gorgeous floral jacquard that is perfect for a Holiday gathering, special event or party. I love it paired with the PERFECT velvet top and a short boot!




Like the full skirt, the pleated skirt can be considered more conservative, depending on the hemline and trend. I love how these skirts can be worn a little edgier with a school-girl chic plaid design or with an updated top or sweater.  Again, paired with a sassier shoe, you have gone from functional to fancy in a flash.



No matter what your look or length, skirts are a beautiful, feminine way to look good any day (or night)! Make a statement this Holiday season . . . and skirt yourself!


Lynette Earley, Interim Area Manager


Lynette is one of Etcetera’s bloggers who will share her thoughts on trends, style, fashion and fun with her sunny, southern charm. When Lynette is not busy managing and recruiting as an ETCETERA ADM in central Florida, she is likely serving others in some way.  A self-proclaimed busy bee, Lynette is the consummate volunteer, teen-age boy mom, free-lance writer, pink freak and girly girl who loves traveling, reading, exercising, yoga, fashion, girlfriends and beach time!






Last February, I spent a weekend attending classes by our local chapter of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI). The clear highlight of the weekend was a workshop by Sue Donnelly, international image coach, who flew in from England just for this occasion. Sue’s mission – to make authentic style achievable in a way that is totally relevant, meaningful, and practical for each individual – has become my goal when I work with my clients.

Sue’s workshop especially hit home with me because her topic that day was styling 50+ women, a demographic I thoroughly love working with.  We discussed the psychological impact of our changing bodies and the fact that by 50 we have gotten so entrenched in caring for our families that making ourselves a priority feels somehow selfish. We become ‘invisible’ – no more compliments, no more second glances — and we get used to that, albeit with a bit of mourning at the loss of our identity.


Sue highlighted the three major traps that women in this age group fall into in order to deal with this new reality:


DRESSING TOO YOUNG: Fighting their changing image, some women jump on board with every trend, no matter that it’s designed for a 20 year old; the effect is more pathetic than alluring.



DRESSING TOO SAFE: The most common fashion faux pas is staying in workout clothes all day; or a uniform of jeans and t-shirt/sweater. *Note: wearing athletic apparel all day does not make people think you’re athletic.



DRESSING TOO OLD: Career women are especially prone to this, in an effort to look professional. Businesslike = Frumpy? AU CONTRAIRE!



With this in mind, I’d like to share a few looks my partner, Linda Zappala, and I created this week at our Etcetera Holiday show for my fabulous clients, who are all accomplished women – professionals, mothers, volunteers – and who deserve to look and feel great.


Linda is the Queen of Edgy Combinations. I love how she took our lovely, cozy PAYTON sweater dress and gave it a second life as a tunic over leggings (and threw our OMBRE scarf in for good measure). For the client whose top priority is effortless style and ease, this is the ticket!


One of Etcetera’s design philosophies is to create collections that blend from one season into the next. Linda paired the chic, QUALIFIED jacket and luxe ELK velveteen jean from Fall with Holiday’s PENNY blouse for an upscale casual look:




I love that women all around me are getting into yoga — toning up, and being more in tune with their bodies. One of the rewards is being able to wear a figure-hugging piece like our TOURMALINE velvet burnout top over a snug pair of jeans like our MERCURY foiled stretch cotton. A dynamic, fashion-forward friend who recently founded a new software app company was my muse for this outfit:


For a client who is phasing into a more casual work life, or our stay-at-home mom wanting an outfit to up her game for lunch and meetings, the KISMET blouse, paired with the KIMONO cardigan and MERCURY jean was a beautiful option, with versatile possibilities for each piece:



One of our clients is an executive for a professional sports team. This is a business where staying current is especially important, both in the office and at her frequent after-hours events. I can’t wait to have her try on our GOLDRUSH jacket, BACCARAT blouse, and SOLARIS pant later this week:


The showstopping LOLITA skirt actually hung in our showroom a few days before anyone thought to try it on. It looked so basic in design, and so satiny red, we just weren’t picturing it hanging it in our closet. However, as of this afternoon, we are fighting over it, and putting it on every client. The subtle detail, the cut, the great stretch in the fabric, all make this one incredible skirt. Put it with a sexy black top like our PERFECT mesh/velvet and a great pump, and prepare to be noticed… in a good way.


The ubiquitous Black Pant — how many pairs does one woman need? Well, however many you have, make room for one more pair. The GLISTEN black satin pant has a trim cut that is remarkably flattering on every woman who has passed through our showroom. It’s straight-cut enough to balance out a wider hip, and yet narrow enough at the ankle to go with any type of pump or flat shoe — definitely a case of “what’s old is new again.” We’re showing it here with the dazzling RADIANT Campari red velvet jacket, and BELLADONNA cable and sheer intarsia sweater. Oo-la-la!





Check out Sue Donnelly’s website, www.suedonnelly.com, for a full listing of her blog articles, and enjoy your own authentic, relevant, meaningful style.


Barbara Bisel, Sales Consultant

Barbara is an almost-native Californian living in the San Francisco East Bay. Prior to joining Etcetera she was active in apparel design and construction, marketing, and philanthropic work primarily in the Arts and education. After having been Area Development Manager and Social Media Manager for Etcetera, she joined forces with the ultimate authority on successfully mixing unexpected combinations, Etcetera sales consultant Linda Zappala. Together they delight in providing personal wardrobing service and helping their clients to attain “Compliments and Confidence.”