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February 10, 2011

A Peek at the First Swelle Label Dresses!



Ok, first, this toile - a garment made in muslin or canvas to work out a new design so you don't waste the actual fabric - was snapped when it only had one sleeve. This dress will have two sleeves! The black shirt has nothing to do with dress, it was just cold that day. So this should alleviate any concerns that I am doing a line of one-armed dresses in the plainest and cheapest of fabrics, in case anyone thought I was a total weirdo. (You can still think that if you want to but for for other reasons.)

So, what is this Swelle label? It's a house label for my shop, Swelle Boutique, a way for me to offer pretty, every day dresses that don't have to be dry cleaned. At a lower price point. I'm so proud of all of the clothes in the shop which are worth every penny and then some - especially now as most are on sale - but I wanted to round out the selection with the kinds of pieces - mostly dresses - you can wear over and over through the season, and if a glob of ketchup jumps from your burger onto your chest, you won't die. (For the record, I still need to wear a bib.) I'll continue to feature exclusive pieces from a few other designers whose work I adore, but for this concept I decided to take matters into my own hands.

How am I doing it? I'm working with a dress maker and pattern cutter who has years upon years of design experience and whose construction is excellent, she's a perfectionist which is what I was looking for. I choose the fabrics, trims and buttons and request the style and then she cuts the pattern and makes the dress. And then we can play around with the buttons and trims - the fun part!

The styles are mostly based on the clean, feminine shapes of the 60s, as in shifts and trapeze dresses, and there will be a bit of 50s. I have an incredible print, very painterly flowers on a super soft white cotton that appear to be falling and then gathering more densely at the hem, and it will be amazing as a full-skirted 50s style. Simple, pretty and fun. I bought most of the fabrics when I was in Edinburgh last month and it was the prints that jumped out.

Now I'm going to say something odd: The fabrics shown here are my least favourite of what I came home with. But that's not to say I don't like them, I picked them out and paid for them! So I do like them but not as much as the others, so I wanted to start with them, come up with a dress I loved and then it would get even better. This one has a gathered trim on the hem and sleeve in the constrasting colourway to add texture and give the slightest puff. The buttons we've used to adorn the placket (they're for show, the dress has a back zip) are actually not either of the 1930s buttons from France that are pictured here - I love that they are still sewn to the original card! - but pale pink glass vintage roses I've had with me for years. There are enough for two dresses and I think they are the perfect highlight for this very floral, vintage-y dress!

So what you get from Swelle is a new favourite dress for daily wear that is likely a one-off - each will have something just a bit different - was not made in a factory and may have pretty vintage buttons, and comes at a price that won't make you immediately relegate it to 'Wish List'. The first pieces of the spring collection will be introduced early March and new styles will be produced continuously throughout the year. Only a few in each fabric will be made so there will always be fresh looks in the boutique.

I'll post more previews as I have them!


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I'm excited already, can't wait to see the finished pieces!

Thank you, Carly! I'll be seeing the finished dresses tomorrow and can't wait to get them on my models! ♥♥♥

This makes me stupid happy. How exciting for you!

oooo - i can't wait to see more!

Hi, i was wondering how you find a seamstress and a pattern grader? is it usually a few dresses in 1 or 2 sizes?

Thanks so much, Sian and Alex. You're awesome!!!

Hi Yuliya, I am very lucky to have a talented friend who has that specific background and was interested and available to help me produce the line, otherwise I highly doubt I'd be able to find the right person. It's a daily commitment. I've sourced the fabric in small quantities to keep things fresh, we'll be offering only two or three of each style/fabric, in sizes S, M and L. Having them handmade means we can make each one a bit different and offer one-offs or limited edition. Not sure if you were looking for advice or were just interested in the line but I hope that helps!

Denise ♥

Hi! thank you for responding! i am looking for advice, anything i can get :)and i am interested in the line, i love to find people who do something like what i'd like to. i design/sew and can grade patterns, but it's very time consuming, so i was hoping to have someone grade/cut/sew so i can concentrate on designing and growing. May i ask what where from and how many (yards) do you source your fabric on average?

i also love reading your blog, it's very fresh and cool :) i've done it for quiet some time now. and i like that you share, not just the gist here and there.

Thank you, Yuliya! I really don't have a rigid formula, especially as this is just the start of the label, I'm trying things and seeing what works. I buy from shops I visit when I travel as there's not a lot of great stuff where I live, and I like buying in person rather than online so I can feel the fabrics. As for quantities, it's really just based on how much I like it and how much is available, and whether I want to do a lot of dresses or just a few in that fabric. Price is a factor. It all comes down to your business model and how you plan production. That should be based not just on what you want to do, but what is cost-effective and feasible. So many factors to seriously consider. Good luck!

Denise ♥

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