Being Helena

With the prospect of Susan Khalje visiting Australia again, I decided to try another challenging project – this outfit worn by Helena Bonham-Carter at a Berlin Film Festival.

After trawling through pinterest, here’s how Helena wore this outfit.

I love how this suit is a deconstructed, fitted suit.

For this project, I ordered from the Minerva Crafts website a paisley lining and two different suitings plus the buttons and trims to reflect the original photos of Helena’s outfit. Bear in mind that I didn’t have the patterns available so I ordered plenty of lining and suiting just in case I needed to include lots of detailing.

The patterns
As you can see, the jacket uses McCalls 7513 body and Vogue 8931 sleeves.
Two-piece sleeve
My choice of McCalls 7513 was because it has amazing pleating at the base of the jacket.
The easiest way to make this suit would be to make a basic jacket and pencil skirt. My aim was to  make something close to the actual outfit and I knew Susan would have the couture experience to help me achieve this.

I did use Vogue 8931 in 2014 and 2015 so I knew the sleeve pattern would work. 

This is the pinning needed to make sure the sleeve was positioned correctly.

PreparationDuring the 6 days couture sewing week, I prepped the jacket and skirt pattern using calico. My working was made more accurate using the Prym products to mark the seam allowances and pattern markings for this project.

The jacket fabric is made up of a Portuguese Pinstripe Stretch Suiting.


Without knowing how much fabric I needed, I ordered 2 metres and I used it all for the jacket.

Sewing with Winter suiting during our humid Summer was a huge task but so worth doing.

Back to the jacket…

Would you believe this was my starting point for both the jacket and the skirt? 

When you think about it, the project might be daunting.

However, as you can see, Susan had pinned the jacket into the shape that I wanted and she prompted got to helping someone online, with a handy cup of tea.

This is where I got to on day 2 of the workshop.

Faux vest

These closeup photos of the jacket show a faux vest.

Here’s the toile of my version of this faux vest piece.

I had to include the faux collar on the faux vest at the top of this pattern piece.

What you see here is the prepped faux vest piece thread traced so I could have the buttonholes sewn professionally.

This is the industry button hole sewing machine used to sew most of the buttonhole. This was done on day 5 of the workshop.

What you see here is Mick sewing the bar tack end of the buttonhole on a separate industry machine. In Sydney Mick is the only person who does this work for the garment industry and he’s more than happy to do this for us locals.

When I saw these buttons on the Minerva Crafts website, I knew they would be perfect for this jacket.
Crendon Embossed Floral Metal Buttons
I love that this button is metal and has a darkness to it. The flowers on this button gives this a bespoke feel to the jacket while still being a bit girlie.

Jacket pleats
Days 3 and 4 confounded me as I tried to get the fit of the jacket pleats accurately.

To get the pleats to sit flat, I had to thread trace the pleats and adjust them to my shape.

The pleats did need some re-work.

The collar
The other challenge was the collar.

Every seam allowance on the collar was thread traced and rechecked to the pattern.

In the end, we repined the collar and it’s less wide than the original collar in the McCalls pattern but suits my size – petite.

Below is the jacket body ready for a lot of work to apply the lining at the end of day 6.

There was still a lot of work to do and I was happy with the fit. Ecstatic.

Below is the pinning required to hand sew the lining into the jacket.

You can see the lining pleat along the centre back seam.

The sleeve of my jacket has a faux opening with the button sewn onto it.

The skirt

The skirt was made using this Portuguese self pinstripe in a navy.

There wasn’t enough time to adjust the pattern for this project.
What you’re looking at above, it the calico example that Susan set up for me so I could replicate this on the skirt pattern after the week ended.
The original pattern for the skirt was Susan’s straight skirt pattern.
What you see here is the full sized pattern I developed.
These are the thread traced pleats on the front of the skirt.
I rechecked my work against the green test version of Susan’s pencil skirt pattern. After making the initial skirt fit adjustments on the calico, I sewed up a test skirt in green and it fit well.
This shows how the final pleating looked with thread tracing intact.
This shows how the inside of the skirt hides all the seaming. I’ve used grosgrain to face the waist of the skirt.
Could I replicate this suit again? Yes.
Would I replicate this suite again? Yes.
The jacket is so unique that I want a casual version to wear in winter. That will happen once our hot humid weather subsides. It’s just way to hot and humid to sew suits in Sydney at the moment.
Thanks Minerva Crafts for supporting my couture habit again this year.

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