Sunday, August 5, 2012

Safari Looks Part III Styling the Safari Look

This is an easy post because the safari look is really simple. It's a rough but "efficient" look. It's a great look for cold and rainy summers. It says you've stored away your winter style even if you're working in an air-conditioned office through August. You are still are ready to negotiate over a conference table but you are also ready to hop on a plane for Kenya, Singapore or Sydney.

Warning: Indiana Jones did not spend his mornings matching hat to satchel. And it's easy to get this look wrong if you mix your references or go too far.
You want to look summery, chic, sexy, adventurous and even dangerous.
You don't want to look like you're auditioning for The Lion King or a Tarzan remake.  Or worse, that you're the mother of a lost Cub Scout outing. No pith helmet (I was joking in Part I) or matching cargo pants, please. If your total pocket count has reached double digits, you're ready for the Style Crocodiles.

Personally, as I worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia for twenty years, I know for a fact that newbies wearing flak vests with loops for their bullets, or big photographer vests with a thousand pockets looked like turkeys. You only get to wear one of those if you actually shoot in war zones.

Shoes should be sandals, leather platforms or if you're really irreverent, desert boots, as above. You'll look dorky in ballet flats, stilettos, office pumps or rubber flipflops.

If you're a safari beginner, stick with leather or straw elements. I know, Michael Kors gave us gold cuffs and chunky jewellery, but that goes horribly wrong if your jewellery is too twee.

Notice in Part II of my safari posts that even on the Paris catwalk, Givenchy's black and white "urban safari" accessories were straw, sandals and an ethnic print handbag. And that lady was ready to lunch at the Ritz.

You're off and running if you immediately throw on a suitable scarf or cheche in linen or cotton. Leave the Gucci silk squares at home. You need something that looks like it could double as a turban or sand guard. Something that would keep the grit out of your teeth if you were escaping a desert storm in the arms of Ralph Fiennes. Something that might double as a skirt when your pants wear out on that desert island in Year Four.

Sunglasses are a must. I didn't have to tell you that, did I?

Please don't overdo the jungle/batik/Hindu Kush prints. If your scarf is busy, make the bag leather casual. If your scarf is plain,  go wild with the bag or belt. It's a knowing reference, not a bargain basement souk haul.

As the waist is usually somewhat defined, the belt is key. Self belts are the norm, canvas belts with a metal buckle are good and ethnic belts better. If you want to tamp down the uniform effect, try mixing the jacket with a frilly skirt or feminine dress underneath for the "I borrowed it from my Desert Rat boyfriend" effect.

Or reference, "I've lived here so long, my bottom half has gone jungly with a sarong skirt.





Perhaps the most important accessory is a good tan and a healthy body. (And yes, a fake bake covers both bases.) If you don't look like you could survive the fashion trek, you may be left behind in the dust.

Safari looks II: Color and sewing designs/patterns

So you're setting off on your own Safari Hunt for the perfect look for you? Here are the patterns you need.


This year many designers showed "safari looks" which on the catwalk can range from the conservative jacket to your way-out-there jungle sarong. In fact, if you look carefully, designers are always returning to this fashion trope. Sometimes a magazine like Elle will just do a whole page of safariennes, and the color scheme is almost always khaki, sand, white, black and brown, but sometimes they give you one jolt of unexpected color. This makes the safari jacket very casual.
(I've always been fond of this number and wonder why I haven't turned out a turquoise safari jacket yet. Oh, dear, life for the sewist is just too short.) 
Look how Givenchy took it up to the heights of Haute with that fantastic hat against a chic black and white combo. 

But basically, we're talking about desert colors. These jackets are almost always unlined. So this is a cheap sew. All you need is brown, taupe, white, tobacco or khaki green cotton, a lot of plain buttons and a lot of thread. These babies need topstitching all over, which is why they last a lifetime in the field.

Here below are some nifty designs in no specific order that give you an idea of the variety of safari silhouettes you can play with. I've mixed them up chronologically to illustrate the timelessness of this wardrobe theme. I've even included some truly ancient numbers, dating back even as far as the late seventies (by Christian Aujard) and an interesting Indochine version by YSL from the eighties.

(And I'm not even going to drag you through all my safari dress options, which are really just shirtdresses featuring plackets/pockets/epaulets. I've got one by Ralph Lauren which took to me Singapore and back for two years.)

Can you spot which one I used for my white canvas jacket to Croatia?



















So, now sew your jacket, vest or shirt. Or take a trusted shirt/shirtdress pattern and add epaulets to the shoulders and flapped pockets to the bodice. In any event, it's best to have a fitted bodice and a waist defined either by cut or belt.
In Part III, I'll talk about styling the safari look.
(Part III follows)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Safari jackets, a three-post primer, Part I

As some of you may recall, we had to catch up on three years' worth of summer vacation due to family illnesses. And boy, have we done that this summer.

I'm now uploading dozens of photos, but realize that in the end, few of them relate to sewing: I spent the last month in a series of bathing suits and sarongs. However, here is one relevant photo, from which I'm inspired to post (as I did with the kimono pattern in Burda) a three-part series.  I'm wearing a home-sewn travel outfit, arriving in the Split airport early in the morning, waiting for pickup by the host's boat chauffeur cum chef for a week of private cruising up and down the Dalmatian coast.
Tough life, I know.

The bottoms are the Burda cotton trousers with the pocket flaps (but no pockets!) that I sewed two summers ago.The jacket is an unlined OOP Vogue safari jacket that I made in both white and black cottons fifteen years ago. I doubt I've ever had more wear out of a sewing effort in my four decades-plus of sewing. A white safari jacket always looks natty for summer travel or meetings, but not too "officey," and can dress up or down. I subscribe to the "travel sharp" rule, borne out time and again. Returning from this trip, the Easyjet people took us from the back of a queue of hundreds when I said my husband was in pain from his back fractures and just opened a new queue to speed us through. (They were hoping to skip "Speedy Boarding" for some reason.) Frankly, I don't think we would have got that kind of service if we've been wearing flipflops and cutoffs like everyone else.

I use my safari jackets lots. It's the only time, apart from sewing my husband birthday pyjamas, that I set up multiple sewing machines, to end up with two completed jackets in one sew-through. Safari jackets feature lots of pockets for travel, useful these days when airlines don't always let you carry a purse along with your carry-on suitcase—sunglasses, lipstick, I-pod, ID, boarding card and reading glasses, credit card, lounge card—there are pockets galore for all of these items.


I do love the safari look. You can go wild, like Veruschka in YSL, or sleek, like Grace Kelly in Mogambo. (Clark Gable would unravel that prim look later in the movie) You can do the shirt-jacket version like Lauren Hutton or a shirt like Ava Gardner below. There are vest versions, sleeved versions, dress versions, probably even evening gown versions if I looked hard enough. The elements required are flap pockets, often on the upper bodice, and always very large pockets on the hips, preferably with double pleats, (what the French charmingly call bellows pockets) as well as shoulder epaulets, an open collar, and a tied or buckled belt. Snaps, utility rings and a good fit help.
But please, never confuse the safari look with the trench coat look which features chest guards.




In part II, I'm going to show you all the sewing safari looks I've collected over the years, either tracing Burda or collecting Vogues. Put on your pith helmet and Enjoy the Adventure!
(Part II follows)