Sewing, Vintage

Sewing – An Update

This sewing malarkey has taken on a life of it’s own!  I’m off to Mum’s today to practice sewing in invisible zips as I haven’t done on of those for years.  I mentioned it to my daughter (Grace) and she said ‘Oh Mummy, you should have asked me, I got an A in textiles and a Da Vinci Merit (which is over and above a normal merit) and it was specifically for sewing in my zip and having neat corners!!’  Well, excuse me, I didn’t realise I had a budding sewer in the house!  We ended up talking about what she would like to make and we have decided on a cream skater skirt.  We are off to look for fabric this morning.

Meanwhile, I may have been taking a peek at sewing blogs and I happened to see a gorgeous vintage inspired dress.  Pattern should arrive today!!  I may have also seen a sewing blogger talking about a vintage sewing pattern pledge and I just may have signed up!  Well, I’m going to be making the vintage dress pattern anyway and surely the skater (circle) skirt must count and I want to look for a vintage blouse pattern, job done.  Kate, what have you got me into!

I am loving it – while Nige looks at ‘car nutter’ sites in the evening, I can look at clothing designs, which is also research for my day job of being a trainer on all things image and style (with comms and behaviour thrown in too) – perfect!  I do love it when a plan comes together.

1942217622elizam-eliza20dressHere is my vintage inspired dress from Eliza M– I love the fabric too, so may order that.  I’ll take a look in my local fabric store in Leamington Spa today first.  We are on the look out for cream fabric for a skater skirt, probably something medium weight for this time of year so she can wear it in spring and I am sure they will sew up very quickly, so we can always make a lighter weight number for summer.

How exciting – a new wardrobe for both of the Bromley girls!  I think Grandma may join in too.

Happy sewing.

Colour, Colour Psychology, Confidence

Colour Psychology – Blue

Blue is a great colour for business as it stands for:

  • Clear Communication
  • Intelligence
  • Trustworthy
  • Conservative (with a small ‘c’)
  • Credible
  • Efficient
Speaking at the Women Working in Construction Event 2012

Speaking at the Women Working in Construction Event 2012

Here I am wearing a cobalt blue dress when I spoke at a Women Working in Construction event in 2012.  Teamed with my accessories, it looks less formal, even though the style of the dress is quite corporate.  I had it made in Shanghai, just in case you were wondering!

My aim was to stand out, as I was the speaker, to nod to corporate style, but not to be dressed the same as everyone else at the event.  You can see that corporate coloured suits was the main theme for the attendees, with the odd pop of colour.  I was there speaking about ‘Maximising Your Personal Brand’ – so there was no use blending in!

What does the colour blue conjure up for you?  Most people think of the blue they see around them in nature – the sky, the sea, blue eyes and blue flowers.  Maybe with the popularity of blue jeans, it has become a very prolific colour for us to wear too.  In corporate life, the neutrals used in suiting fabric tend to be black, grey and blue, with deeper blues erring on the more formal authoritative side.

We use blue in our language too – here are a few for you to consider:

  • Blue blood – to mean nobility
  • Blue movies – to indicate x-rated content!  It stems from ‘blue laws’ that existed many years ago and it is the same as Sunday Laws – to ban trading on the Sabbath.  Of course, this no longer exists, but the term ‘blue’ was adopted to mean prohibited.
  • Blue gowns – prostitutes
  • Bluestockings – learned ladies – stemming from 1750

Everyone can wear blue, but different shades may be appropriate depending upon your natural colouring.  They can be categorised into:

Deep and light

Cool and warm

Bright and muted.

There will be a shade that suits you best!  Which do you think it might be?

Blue DeepBlue light  Blue BrightBlue WarmBlue Cool Blue Muted

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions  Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Director of Regional Events at FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women. Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke training and workshops or one-to-one coaching.  First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK and in 20 countries around the world– to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map. Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038 Email: Website:

Business Etiquette, First Impressions, handshake, Lyn Bromley

Etiquette – The Handshake in Saudi

This post is inspired by the news today that Michelle Obama shook hands with the new Saudi King; King Salman bin Abdulaziz.  They were there to pay their respects to the late King and to meet the new leader.   During the receiving line, Michelle shook hands with the new King.  Better than150127130348-michelle-obama-saudi-arabia-0127-super-169 hugging him, as she did with our Queen Elizabeth!

There are strong Islamic rules about men meeting women other than family members in private and they must not touch any part of a woman’s body, if they are not related to them.  The rule though is generally overlooked for visiting diplomats.  Many female diplomats have visited Saudi in the past and they have all shaken hands with the King; Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Madeleine Albright to name a few.

It is important when travelling on business to understand the cultural norms in the country you are visiting.  It is so easy to offend if you have not done your research.  In our ‘Business Etiquette’ training we have covered all the do’s and don’t for the countries that are often visited on business and there are some surprising facts that we uncovered.  It is real a mark of respect to observe the cultural norms and is seen very favourably.  When we went to deliver training in Hong Kong and Shanghai it is customary to take a proffered business card with both hands and then really study it – a little different to how we behave in the UK.  I personally like that tradition, it feels very respectful.

In meeting the Saudi dignitaries, Michelle waited to see how the man reacted.  If they offered their hand she shook it and smiled and if they didn’t she just smiled and nodded her head.  She was therefore respectful of their culture and played it just right.

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions  Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Director of Regional Events at FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women. Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke training and workshops or one-to-one coaching.  First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK and in 20 countries around the world– to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map. Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038 Email: Website:

DvF, Lyn Bromley, Women's Style, Wrap Dress

Women’s Style: Wrap Dress

There is a well known misconception that Diane von Furstenberg invented the wrap dress.  DvF’s dresses started to appear in the early 70’s, but there had already been a version of what we now know as the wrap dress in 1930’s by Elsa Schaiparelli and 1940’s by CSchaiparelli wraplare McCardell.  Here’s the Schaiparelli wrap – very elegant and something I may try to re-create myself as a ball gown.

Lyn DvF Wrap DressThe difference between these early dresses and DvF’s is the fabric type and the length.  DvF favours knee length and the fabric is famously figure-hugging jersey.  I am lucky enough to own a DvF in a vintage pattern.  It is 100% silk jersey and I absolutely love wearing it.  Here I am at an event we exhibited at back in 2011 with longer hair!  I looked long and hard before I decided upon this dress.  I don’t often buy designer because I think there is a great variety of garments available without having to take out a small mortgage to buy them!  Don’t get me wrong, I love them and really enjoy looking at them, finding out about them and using them as inspiration, but I want a hard wearing day-to-day wardrobe, rather than one full of designer pieces.  So I really took my time selecting this dress.  I do absolutely love it and it has really lasted well.  I think cost-per-wear must be down to pence by now!  Very sadly it has started to rot under the arms, probably from deodorant, so I am looking into ways of fixing that as the rest of the dress is still in perfect condition.  Let me know if you have any ideas!

Back to DvF – she attributes her divorce to the design of the wrap dress.  It was apparently created in the spirit of allowing women to enjoy their sexual freedom.  I guess that must be the clingy form-hugging jersey.  She originally created it as a wrap top and separate skirt and was quite astounded by the reaction when she put the two together and created a dress.

The dress has even been credited with being the symbol of women’s liberation in the 70’s – quite a claim.

The style of the wrap is perfect for the ‘hourglass’ figure.  It’s for the woman who has a slim waist compared to hips.  It doesn’t work for the ‘straight’ body shape, where there is little or no difference between the waist and the hips.  The wrap creates a focal point at the waist, emphasising the slimmest part of the body.  It also creates a lovely ‘v’ at the neck.  If a round neck suits you better, you can always add a camisole underneath, which also creates the extra security of a higher neckline.  Worn without a camisole, it can sometimes expose more flesh than you would like.  (Depending upon the cut of the dress).  This may be acceptable for a night out, but for work it is advisable to err on the side of caution.

It comes in many different fabrics, they all behave differently, so pick wisely.  There are short and long sleeved versions and they vary in length from a shorter, tunic style to floor length as in the Schaiparelli version above.  There is also a version with a collar, or the collarless version above.

Whichever your preference, there will be wrap dress to suit your taste.

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions

 Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Director of Regional Events at FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke training and workshops or one-to-one coaching. 

First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK – to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map.

Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038




Lyn Bromley, Sewing, Wrap Dress

Sewing: Wrap Dress No 2

There have been lots of questions about the dress I made this weekend, so thought I would add a few details for you.

The pattern I used was Vogue V8379.  I made dress B with longer sleeves.  I personally prefer the dress with no collar, but as it is winter, I wanted the longer sleeves.  The short sleeved version would be a little easier as one of the only tricky parts to the pattern was figuring out how to stitch the sleeve band and attach it to the dress!

This is only my second attempt at the pattern and the first on my own.  You can read all about the first attempt in Lyn Learns to Sew.  I decidIMG_1003ed to try this again so I could be sure that I had understood what I learned last weekend with Kate.  I always preach to my own students that it’s all well and good learning, but the key is to put it into practice as quickly as possible to ensure that you have really understood it and that the learning is strengthened and enhanced.  There is specific research to show that this is true by Ebbinghaus  called the forgetting curve.  The concept is that each time you reinforce learning you forget a little less each time until you get to a point where you remember it all.

Kate had given me a piece of fabric to practice with and I really liked it!  It has all the shades of colour in it that I like and that suit me and unbeknown to Kate, I do like animal print, although it is often tricky to find in cooler shades.  It is widely available in warmer shades – think African grassland in yellow tones, rather than the cooler blue tones of the British Countryside!

Here is a close-up of the fabric.  It’s a jersey with a good amount of stretch.  I would guess a cotton/viscose mix.  It was easier to work with than the IMG_1006bamboo/elastane mix of the first dress.  The bamboo was much softer and more delicate, so a nicer feel on the skin, but more difficult to handle when sewing.  I had to use a special jersey needle in the sewing machine for the bamboo, but with this fabric, a regular needle was fine.

The first challenge was to pin all the pattern pieces on to the fabric to make sure I could fit them all on with the grain line going in the right direction!  I did have to re-pin a couple of times before I was happy with it.  This was an early attempt with far too much space between the pieces!  I started on Saturday late afternoon and had cut out all of the pieces and sat adding tailor’s tacks and basting whilst watchinIMG_0990g The Voice on Saturday evening!  By Sunday morning, I was ready to start sewing.  When I have a new challenge I like to get on with it.  I enjoy doing it, but always like to get it finished so I can see the final piece!  So, rather than having a Sunday morning lie in, I was up and sewing early.

I found the majority of the construction pretty straightforward – it is classified as a ‘very easy’ pattern to follow!  The only pitfall on the bodice is getting the slit for the belt to go through on the right side, which I failed to do!  The dress is symmetrical, so it didn’t actually matter, but having around six wrap dresses already, when I tried it on with the slit on the left, it just didn’t feel right, so with a small alteration, the belt slit is now on the correct side!  Kate did warn me about this and I thought I had done it correctly, obviously not, so do take care with this.  I had made up the bodice in about an hour and a half, including facings, so I was pretty pleased with that.  The skirt was really easy.  I had cut out the skirt back on the fold, so it reduced the need to sew an extra seam, so two seams later and attaching the skirt to the bodice and I was almost there.  I had to pause here to get ready to go to visit my parents!  My Mum is a sewer too – she taught me originally when I was about 11 I think.  I used to make all my school skirts and tube skirts in lurid 1980’s shades!  I have my Mum’s old sewing machine, which we realised is about 39 year’s old.  She has a much newer one, so I thought I would take the sleeves over to finish off there as I remembered them being a bit tricky!


This is how the sleeve with the sleeve band attached should look.  I was pleased to have my first dress to check as a guide.  The pattern, in my opinion, is lacking in it’s description here.  It took me some time to work out whether it was the right way around, so it was good to be able to double check it with Mum too!  Even so, I did manage to sew it on wrong and Mum unpicked it for me while I did the next one!!  I am really pleased with the finished look – it is definitely better IMG_0996than my first attempt!

Here is the  finished dress.  It doesn’t really go with my biker boots, but I was still at Mum’s.  I shall have fun working out which accessories to wear with it.  It’s a pretty busy pattern, so fairly plain I’m thinking.  I may try to find some blue tights to match the pattern on the dress!  The only modification I may make is to do something with the facings.  They are not sitting properly and I think they will annoy me if they keep popping out!  Happy sewing to my friends who try this!


Not my most flattering pics, but really happy to share as it is such a great distinction between the shift and the sheath. We had a wonderful time experimenting with fit and I am a convert to bespoke! Great blog Kate.

Fit and Flare

What is the difference between a shift dress and a sheath dress? Both are one piece dresses, made in woven rather than stretch fabrics, often knee length or shorter, often sleeveless, and are often confused. Both styles are classics and have been in and out of fashion during the 20th and 21st centuries.

The shift was a phenomenon in the 1960s and is essentially a short, A line dress. In is semi-fitted or loose fitted.  A sheath dress is fitted much more closely to the body. The bottom half of the dress resembles a straight pencil skirt rather than the A line of the shift. In essence the shift is better on straight body shapes, and the sheath flatters more curved figures.

woman in black sheath dress sheath dress

A sheath dress is

  • a one piece dress with no waist line join
  • closely fitted through the body so that it follows its curves
  • it skims…

View original post 1,312 more words


The sheath dress – what it is and how to fit it

Body Shape, Colour, Fabrickated, Fitting, Lyn Bromley, Sewing

Lyn learns to sew!

I have just had the most fabulous three days. I have been learning to dress-make. Well, re-learning really. I used to make clothes when I was in my teens and early 20’s. Then I got busy in corporate life and didn’t make the time. I love clothes and find the construction fascinating. It made me realize that we often put up with imperfections in our clothing because they are the closest we can get with off-the-peg outfits. The magic of hand-made is that they can fit your form perfectly – no compromise necessary at all.

I spent the weekend with the lovely Kate Davies – she has her own wonderful blog – The intention was to make a wrap dress using Vogue pattern V8379 which Kate has already constructed several times before.

I started by selecting fabric in preparation for my trip – that’s not so easy! I went to 5 different shops to find what I was looking for. I was looking for something cool and bright. Not easy to find during the winter when most fabrics are deep and muted! I eventually settled on a cool pink that is slightly deeper than I would have liked, but it works and was the best of the selection available. I was looking for jersey and there are so many choices – mixes of polyester, elastane, viscose, silk and bamboo. Of course, the man-made options are much cheaper and for a first attempt was probably where I should have pitched it. The choices on offer were not great in terms of colour, so I pushed the boat out and went for a bamboo (95%) and elastane (5%). It is a lovely firm jersey – some of the alternatives were just too flimsy and upon being stretched, did not spring back into shape well. Had I chosen them, I would have had a nice bottom shape in the dress after sitting down for half an hour – not that attractive, although cheaper. I decided on balance, that I would rather pay a bit more and be able to wear the finished product, rather than go for a cheaper option and not really want to wear it. I was also pretty confident that with Kate’s help I’d be able to have a pretty decent bash at it and I always find that if I start out assuming that I am going to succeed, I definitely stand more of a chance of success!

The revelation to me was that we started by taking all of my measurements, comparing them to the standard ones on the pattern and then adjusting it to fit me completely. Quite obvious when you think about it, no wonder my teenage attempts at trousers cut straight from the pattern were disastrous really! We discovered that I am fairly close to off-the-peg, except for a couple of adjustments that were a few inches different – fairly significant and explains why off-the-peg fits in some brands and not in others.

We pinned the pattern and then started cutting out – fairly scary.   At this point there is no going back! My cutting skills need to be sharpened up, but it became easier the more I did, guided by the ever skillful Kate.

The sewing was great fun – it’s so quick. I realized that the preparation, in terms of good planning of where to pin the pattern pieces to get the most out of the fabric, creating marks on the fabric to show where things such as darts, pleats, centre back and front, are really quite important and make for a better finished garment. I made a few mistakes on the machining – catching fabric from behind where it should not have been and getting too quick and sewing wonky lines to name a few!

My favourite gadget was the overlocker. It gives a really professional finish. It is unforgiving through, as it cuts off the excess fabric and stitches at the same time – so no room for error at all. I quite liked this and was happy to take the risk, given the alternative of double stitching, which, for a beginner is also quite tricky. The objective is to sew two parallel lines – keeping them even and straight. This seemed like a bigger challenge than overlocking. I did try both and noticed that where there was the opportunity to try it twice, my second attempt was always better.

The pattern we used was deemed to be ‘very easy’ by the manufacturer. I realized that they actually assume a high degree of prior knowledge. Many of the instructions are brief and not explicit enough, despite my previous experience, albeit a long time ago. My machine skills stood me in good stead, I have at least made curtains and blinds in the last decade, so I remembered how to sew. It was more about being reminded of the pattern markings and interpreting their brief instructions. I am sure there would have been much more unpicking if I had been left to my own devices! The beauty of it was that Kate has at least three of these dresses in her wardrobe, so we were able to look at the finished garment, so I could see what I was aiming for.

Adding interfacing

Here I am basting the interfacing to the collar and neck of the dress.

This was another important lesson. Previously, as a complete amateur, I would have pinned, then sewed. Kate taught me the importance of basting – this is a long running stitch that holds the two pieces of fabric together, allowing the pins to be removed. It really holds the pieces together much better and avoids any damage to the machine by sewing over pins inadvertently. It gives a much better finished item and a step very well worth adding.


Look at that concentration! I loved Kate’s sewing corner – it’s a really inspirational place to be, with everything I needed close to hand – including Kate’s wonderful husband who kept us fed and watered all weekend! It was like ‘Sewing Bee’ meets ‘Master Chef’!

Finished dress

I couldn’t believe how quickly the dress came together in the end. We seemed to be working on it piece by piece and suddenly to whole dress came together. I am delighted with the finished dress – it fits perfectly. Here is the top half – the bottom still had tailor’s tacks in it, so the full-length dress picture is me back at home after a good press.

Wrap Dress

How satisfying it is to make something from scratch.   I shall definitely be dusting off my machine and maybe even signing up for some classes to learn more. Now I have a perfectly fitting dress, I’m not sure I want to compromise with shop bought.

Measuring hem

Thank you Kate for teaching me so much.  Here she is showing me how to measure the hem from the floor up to get an accurate hem all the way around.