Why to Love Walter Van Beirendonck’s Designs

Life, Painting, Sewing

The one and only designer dress I own is a 2009 Walter Van Beirendonck, and the reason I could afford (or pretend to afford) this particular dress has a lot to do with the ideals surrounding the Belgian fashion designer’s work. There are three main reasons I am attracted to his clothes: Firstly, it is fashion with a moral message — his apparel resonates statements that are anti-violence, anti-racism, pro-environment, pro-hope, pro-love; so what’s not to swoon over? Secondly, he releases ranges that actually are affordable because he wants his designs to be accessible to a young audience. And thirdly, he loves colors as much as I do! Unfortunately for me though, he hardly ever designs for women — all the more reason to jump for joy when I heard he had designed a dress that would cost just $70.

Van Beirendonck lives in the same city as me, and in the 9 years that I’ve lived in Antwerp, there is one day that has a special place in my memory: The day he and I were walking on the same street at the same time. I know I sound like a silly fangirl, but there was something special and mesmerizing about his presence. The day he passed me in the street (he passed me because I was frozen to the spot in awe) he was wearing a mint colored quilted suit and there was a wonderful cloud of fragrance trailing after him. It was like a dream smell of flowers and baby powder. I did a bit of research into this suit, and I guess it was a relative of this seafoam quilted jacket. In any case, it was a spellbinding appearance in my otherwise humdrum day. And solidified the many reasons Van Beirendonck is worthy of my adoration.


I need to be very careful about when I choose to wear my fabulous Van Beirendonck as it is made of paper! So it’s definitely not an option if there is any chance of rain, or if I’m planning to cycle, or if there is any danger of anyone spilling drinks in my vicinity (that means no children or drunk people — possibly just no drinks at all). The last time I wore it was to the opening of an art exhibition at which I showed a few paintings. There was a little wine involved, but visiting an art gallery is usually a pretty civilized affair, so not much danger of spillage!

So let me tell you a little more about this fabulous dress. First of all, it is decorated with penises — lots of them! It is a wonderful feeling to walk around wearing a dress covered in genitalia that people only notice if they look really closely at the design. Van Bierendonck is a bear of a man, both in physical appearance and in name, and I love that he uses the image of the animal in his work. There’s a feeling of fun freedom to someone who is doing what they want to do and saying what they want to say. Even though the dress does depict naked male parts, I do not at all experience it as being as offensive or x-rated as some might. It is just a body part, much like any other body part — and according to psychologists we should be teaching our children to talk openly about sexuality, not hiding it or keeping it a secret.


Van Beirendonck designs for young people, and is aware that his target audience does not always have the kind of funds usually needed to bag designer threads. He cuts out the middlemen from the production and distribution process, and has his clothes made on a large scale. This enables him to keep the prices down without resorting to manufacturing in low wage countries.One of these large scale projects is his children’s collections for JBC. For prices that are a little above average but not crazy ridiculous, your kids can wear beautiful Van Beirendonck clothes. His latest children’s collection ZulupaPUWA came with a lightbulb character and the message, “ZULU says Lights OFF.” You’ll find smiling lightbulbs popping up all over this range, hanging from strings or in the pockets — all the while asking kids to think about the environment and turn off the lights when they leave a room. His previous children’s collection featured the message “It’s OK to be different,” a message I applaud wholeheartedly!


Humor plays a huge part in Van Beirendonck’s work. I mean, you can’t help but childishly giggle at a penis dress, right? However he uses this humor to get across important messages — he strives to demolish gender constructions, to promote safe sex and to comment on world happenings. In an interview with Style.com, he said:

In my fantasy world, I see this as soldiers fighting for a kind of freedom. The helmets are not really referring to an army. It’s more about a freedom warrior, people demonstrating in the street. I always loved the idea of people standing up for diversity, for their right to be different.

A recent project gained Van Beirendonck the title Fashion’s Freedom Warrior, and he has earned it. He is not afraid to use his work to communicate a strong message. His Stop Racism headdresses were inspired by the street protests and demonstrations going on around the world.


In the 1990s, Van Beirendonck’s work gravitated heavily around the promotion of safe sex and the fight against the spread of AIDS. Brooke McCord of DAZED wrote about his work, saying:

You have entered the sex zone, a rubber induced realm, where men clad head-to-toe in muscle tight latex peacock their way down the catwalk, boasting acid bright marabou headwear. Women are dressed in figure-form fetish-wear emblazoned with Bowie lightening bolts, with zips running from the back of the head right under the crotch, leaving the wandering imagination to run wild. Despite bondage style visuals, immortalised by Jean-Baptiste Mondino’s blow-up sex doll meets model images, and a theme of fetishism the latex is in fact representative of a second skin, promoting safe sex, AIDS awareness and Van Beirendonck’s fun, open approach to sex.


For those of you who are loving the beard trend, Van Beirendonck did the beard before anyone did the beard. He is the beard.
You don’t need to look far on the streets of Antwerp to see Van Beirendonck’s work, as he even designed the uniforms for the Antwerp City garbage collectors. I love that he would take on a project like that — it makes me feel like he must be a nice guy! He also designed outfits for U2, but does not limit himself to working with big stars. He is a great supporter of the arts and he loves music: You can see some of his beautiful outfits in this Black Box Revelation music video. That tasseled coat looks really cosy and warm, right? (I have issues with the cold, so I judge everything according to warmness level.)

And let’s not forget that the Vogue Mix & Match trend for 2015 is something he has been doing for years. Van Beirendonck does not allow boundaries of clothing to restrict his designs — they occupy any space he feels they should.



First published on Bustle Jan 2015

Images: jbc.be, Author, Twitter/@GH_Malephoto, Twitter/@IcaTanzi, Twitter/@Tracykonwar,

No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress

Life, Sewing

Today was one of those days that upon waking up and checking the state of affairs on the internet (while still in your pyjamas), you notice that no matter where you look, everyone is talking about the same topic. Normally on days like this the news is about a natural disaster, a plane crash, an awards show or a celebrity who fell over (not looking at anyone in particular Mads). This morning was different, it was not a world changing event that consumed social media and news sites, but a girl who posted a photo of a dress asking if anyone could tell her what colour it was. Sounds kinda cray cray right? This girl took a photo of her mother-in-laws dress and when she showed the photo to her boyfriend, he saw a white and gold dress, but she saw it as black and blue. Unable to reach an agreement, they asked the internet and since then the world has been split in two.

So full of confidence I clicked the link and thought, I’ll tell them what colour it is, can’t be that difficult right? And there it was, an obviously white and gold dress! No question in my mind.


What’s the big deal here? I thought. Scrolling down through the comments I saw that the reactions were split 50/50, some people said it was blue and black, while others saw it as white and gold as I did. A couple of people suggested that the people in the blue/black camp were just trolling and trying to mess with our minds. I seriously started to think that it was one of those tricks where you fool people into staring at a photo for ages when actually there is nothing to see.


So I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and I began an investigation, while I actually should have been getting ready for work, this dress had my attention, and I wasn’t alone. It seems that the whole internet was talking about it! Then I came across an article on wired.com claiming to be able to explain The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress. Science! Yes, science is the answer, here we go. It seems to have something to do with the way our eyes have learned to see colours, our brain calculates what colour something really is by ignoring or discarding the effect of daylight on the item. So if you look at grass during a sunset, it may look dark purple, but your brain will see it as green. Daylight changes colours and your brain knows that so it does it’s best to calculate what colour something would be without the influence of daylight. Sometimes this goes wrong and this is what is happening with this photo of the dress, some peoples brains exclude the wrong light information and see the dress as white and gold.


Seeing this image for the first time, I saw the blue squares but the dress was still gold and white for me. I remember this happened to me once when I was scouring through some ivory flower girl dresses a while ago. I knew this could be possible because the dress had a blueish hue and if you pick colours like that in photoshop you can often be surprised by what shows up. (Notice I was still not convinced). Then something mind-blowing happened, I scrolled back up the page and was confronted by a obviously BLUE and BLACK dress. They swapped the image, I thought, frantically clicking back to the original image, to the article on facebook, the images on twitter, everywhere I looked I saw a blue and black dress. Unbelievable!

gray optical illusion

It reminded me of this image, it looks like two different shades of grey but if you cover the middle of the image with your finger you can see that both tiles are the same colour. With the dress I couldn’t force myself to see it one colour or the other, sometimes it looks white/gold and sometimes blue/black. Since I read the explanation it mostly appears blue/black, before that it was always white/gold, I think this is fascinating, did reading the explanation force my brain to realise it was calculating something wrong? Lets just say this is the most mind-blowing dress I have ever seen!

giphy (1)

Images: Giphy, tumblr/swiked, wired

Victory Parade Lets You Create Your Dream Dress

Life, Sewing

Finding your dream dress is no easy task. After all, it must be the right shape, style and color — and it has to match that [probably unrealistic] dream dress criteria in your head. We’ve all been there: On that shopping trip to find the perfect dress for that very important event. All of a sudden, you spot a dress in your dream fabric on the other side of the shop: The color is perfect, it’s covered in a wonderful print and you’re already imagining yourself swishing across the dance floor in it. Eyeing the other shoppers suspiciously to make sure no one swipes it from under your nose, you rush over there and gather it lovingly in your arms, only to realize that it’s a weird shape, has a strange cutout, is too short, too small, too much cleavage or is some disaster silhouette that renders it unwearable. Heartbroken, you go home with a dress that is the “perfect shape,” but in a fabric that is just not as pretty as the one in your imagination. I blame Pinterest for making me fall in love with dresses I will never wear, I mostly love to buy unique homecoming dresses for 2019, those are my favorite ones for special occacions.

But what if I told you that you can have your cake and eat it too? That you can choose your dream dress style, and then decide which fabric you would like it in? Sounds fantastic, right?! It gets better: The dresses I speak of are made in high-quality cotton and feel like a fantasy to wear. I should know, considering I have two of them and am saving up for 10 more! This dream come true is facilitated by UK-based retailer Victory Parade. So without further ado, I have selected my favorite dress and fabric combinations to inspire you. Because it’s never too late to start building the perfect vintage-inspired wardrobe. Or, you know, to own the dress you’ve been waiting for your whole life:


This dress was my first Victory Parade purchase! It’s a retro-inspired frock with a deep pleated skirt and fitted bodice. It also comes with a self-covered belt and buckle for an authentic finishing touch. I am sure the word kitsch has been used to describe my style several times, but this cartoon strip print is fabulously kitsch!


I cannot begin to describe how excited I was when I stumbled upon this dress! It’s covered in realistic cows, which might seem a bit childish, but the beauty of it is that you only realize as much when you get up close: From a distance, it just looks like a black and white dress. And I just love clothes with a secret!


This dress is next on my wish list: A pencil dress with a contrast turnback collar and pockets with tailored cap sleeves. Here in a beautiful print featuring oriental dragon motifs with lots of gilt inlays. This one has limited availability, so don’t y’all go buying it before I get my hands on one! Or maybe I’d like a turquoise peacock one better? It’s so hard to choose!


For ladies who like to show a bit of leg, this design is based on a Hawaiian wedding dress, with a wrap skirt and waterfall frill at the front. I’ve never owned a white dress before (I’m far too messy to keep it clean for more than five minutes), but if you’re the same, don’t even worry: You can just choose another Hawaiian dress fabric!


There are two things that I love in dress design: 3/4 length sleeves and a square neckline, and the Nancy dress has them both! A perfect dress for the office, this piece also features a delicate asymmetrical pleat detail across the bust.


The contrast collar is another big favorite of mine: It’s so dramatic and wonderfully frames your face. This dress is a perfect example of the huge comeback that vintage fashion is making at the moment.


This is the perfect holiday dress with contrast straps trim and a belt. I can feel the summer breeze just by looking at it!


If you’re not particularly a dress lover, then you can go for the Pencil or Pleat version of the dress skirts.


I’m going to finish up with the Betty P. dress, which is an ode to the woman who is an inspiration to style icons everywhere.


Now you have the dress, so all you have to do is master the vintage hairstyle! What started as a tiny clothing stall at a festival in 1996 has grown to the most fabulous pick-and-mix store that I have have ever seen, and I am delighted to be able to wear these wonderful dresses that no one else has!
First published on Bustle Feb 2015
Images: Author; Victory Parade

Cute Sheep, Poisonous Plants and a French Dress.


Proud moment of the week: I made a Belladone!

I bet you think I’m talking about Deadly Nightshade Atropa belladonna right? (Because I know my readers are down with the latin names for plants and stuff). The name “bella donna” means “beautiful woman” in Italian and the plant got this name because it was used in eye-drops by women to dilate the pupils to make them appear seductive. Can I hear a collective What the hell??

No no, don’t worry, this post is not about the poisonous plant which causes delirium and hallucinations, the sewing people among you will already have suspected that I have indeed made a Deer & Doe Belladone dress! There is nothing poisonous about this darling dress, as you will see from a quick search on Pinterest, thousands of ladies all over the world have made their versions of this pretty French pattern.


My first stop for any sewing project is Bobby Sewing, Joanna has an impressive range of fun and colourful fabrics and always points me in the right direction. This time I was doubting between the classy and glam Dynasty Scallop and the Mini Sheep both from Timeless Treasures. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I knew all along I would go for the sheep, the only reason I hesitated was that the Dynasty Scallop would make such a beautiful traditional NYE glam party dress, with it’s elegant 1920’s pattern in gold and dark turquoise. Joanna swiftly reminded me that I don’t do traditional and so off I went with my two and a half meters of Mini Sheep loveliness!


I was very lucky to be able to take part in a workshop with Lady Lieke from Bouquet of Buttons and Miss Ellen from Studio Elf, I certainly would not have been able to do it without their help! As you can see above, Ellen’s dress turned out wonderfully, I love her gold/pink shiny piping on the waist. You can see some photos from our mini-workshop in an article I wrote for Bustle, you did know I’m a fancy-pantsy writer now right?

I decided to add a black lining to the entire bodice of the dress because I like it like that. I also added yellow piping to almost every visible edge because I felt like it. (You can do whatever you want if you sew, next step: world domination!) Both of these pattern changes made it very complicated to arrange the overlapping shoulder pieces and I’m not sure I did it all in the right order, (didn’t read the instructions eeeek) but lets just say; on the outside everything looks fine!

When I made my first skirt and sewed it up forgetting to first add the pockets, I vowed to never again make anything without pockets. This dress is no exception, and what beautiful pockets they are, if I do say so myself!


Thankfully, I managed to get the dress finished in time for NYE, but also in time to enter the December Sew It Up Party Dress Sewing competition. I was lucky enough to win their last Sew Along competition with my skirt without pockets! I’m really looking forward to seeing the other entries! YAY for self-made party dresses!


The end result is truly on fleek, I’m gonna be the belle of the ball on NYE (see what I did there?).

Ta Daaaaa….


Sewing Tips for the Pseudo Dressmaker

Life, Sewing

It has happened to the best of us: The shopping disaster day. We drag ourself from shop to shop, searching for that perfect dress and go home empty-handed and frustrated. But what if I told you that you could make the dress of your dreams, and that it would fit you perfectly? Want to try sewing a dress for yourself, but don’t know where to start? Well, I’m here to share my beginner sewing tips and tricks to get you started.

Growing up I thought that making my own clothes was something out of my reach, for this I used the best scissors that now a days you can get at sites like trimmeradviser.com. I believed only certain people (like my cousin Aisling) possessed the sewing gift. These days, more and more people are taking up sewing as a hobby, and whilst I will probably never be able to make a wedding dress or anything delicate or detailed, I too have caught the sewing bug. And I learned this secret: If you concentrate and believe you can so something, then you can MAKE IT WORK.

DIY, in general, is the talk of the town these days. You can make your own christmas decorations, concoct your own face masks and delight your whole family with homemade gifts for the festive season. Along with this upsurge in craftiness came TV shows such as Project Runway and The Great British Sewing Bee, bringing sewing back onto our screens and making it hip and trendy again. Other trends that are super popular right now are up-cycling and retro-style, both leading to a heightened interest in sewing, of course.

There are many reasons to start making your own clothes. Amongst them are these:

  • Possessing clothes that fit you perfectly. You can take measurements of every imaginable body part and adjust your pattern exactly to suit your shape. At a time when people are standing up and refusing to conform to the body norms of the fashion industry, it feels very empowering to make clothes for your body.
  • Wearing your own style. I personally love colorful clothes with playful prints, and you will often find me enviously browsing the four to eight-year-old styles in stores! The last dress I made was from the Camelot Fabrics Frolicking Forest range, labeled children’s pajama fabric, but I’m cool with that! Now I have a dress with the cutest little foxes ever on it. Who else can say that? At the moment, I’m working on a red dress with funny little sheep on it, and OK, I admit I sometimes get not-so-positive comments. But they are never really mean; some people just don’t understand.

“Wow the kid you’re making that dress for must be really big, how old is she?” From a friendly, well-meaning old sewing lady

The thing is, I love wearing fun, colorful fabrics. It makes me happy and I refuse to conform!

  • Avoiding mainstream production companies, because they’ve got enough money, right?
  • Knowing for sure that you have in no way contributed to child labor or extreme chemical processes involved in the manufacture of many clothing in our stores. It is relatively easy to find organic cotton and ethically printed fabrics.
So those are the reasons. But before I give you my sewing tips and tricks, I have a confession to make: I am a lazy sewist. I cut corners, I skip steps and I ignore instructions if they seem too complicated. I am by no means a good example, and people who sew professionally (or who have actually studied sewing) would tear their hair out if they saw me working. But here is my advice none the less. Writing this article, I kept hearing Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen” in my head, so you should read the below in his voice. It adds to the effect!


  • Find someone knowledgeable to translate the pattern into understandable English for you. I have found that owners of fabric shops are great for this (if you buy your fabric there and bring your pattern along, they’re normally delighted to go through it with you).
  • Join some sewing groups on social media; it is nice to chat with people who are working on the same pattern as you. These groups can be great for getting advice on small questions, like which color accents to use. Not that you always have to follow their advice; you can change your mind at any second! For my dress (featuring mini sheep fabric designed by Gail Cadden), I decided to go with a yellow accent, when actually in the beginning I really thought I would go the blue/green direction.
  • Surround yourself with other sewing enthusiasts and plan sewing dates, find sewing workshops in your area and get involved. Sitting in a room with a few sewing people is great motivation and helps you avoid getting distracted from the task at hand. It is also fun and you can all learn from your mistakes together. Last weekend, I met up with two fabulous sewing ladies I met on the internet to sew together. Lieke from Bouquet of Buttons supplied the location and cupcakes and Ellen from Studio Elf provided the patterns and pretty accent ribbons.
  • Eat, drink and sleep YouTube tutorials.
  • Find some free beginner patterns online and print at home. There are also several patterns that cost under a dollar, such as the Danielle dress which I used to make my fox ensemble above. Mine is without sleeves because I didn’t have enough fabric, but that just shows that you can make your own variations of any pattern.
  • Get lost on Pinterest for a few hours! Before I start making anything, I search Pinterest to see how other people have made it. That way you pick up loads of inspiration about fabric choice, color combinations, possible adaptations and decide which options are best for you. This step is also very valuable to help imagine what your finished dress could look like. I thought the grey velvet Danielle looks terrible, but when I saw a few versions on Pinterest I decided I loved the pattern (I have already started working on my second one).
  • Do not think you are going to make cheap dresses or save money on clothes. Good quality fabric, thread, workshops, pattern and sewing books all cost money. You just have to try not to think about it, enjoy the time spent making your creation, and the thrill of wearing something you made all by yourself.
  • A very important thing you must do as soon as you buy your fabric is to throw it in the washing machine and give it a wash on your normal cycle. Imagine making a perfect fitting dress and having it shrink the first time you wash it? That would be too painful for words. That being said, I have to admit I am guilty of skipping this stage when I buy new fabric, and start sewing it up like an excited child. If you are like me and don’t have the patience to wash and dry the fabric, you should at least steam iron it really well before sewing. I’m pretty sure that people are soon going to start noticing the consequences of me being afraid to put my creations in the wash! Having a bit of patience in the beginning can save you a lot of stress in the end!


  • Prepare nibbles before you start; it is awfully frustrating to have to leave your sewing table to go make something to eat. We were lucky that our wonderful sewing tutor Lieke is also a fantastic cook and sorted us out with some yummy cupcakes!
  • Tie your hair in an up-do. You need to concentrate really hard when cutting out your fabric; if your hair is long and falling in your eyes it will drive you crazy. Not to mention the risk of cutting off a lump of your hair while focusing on your pattern, true story, right Lieke? OK, maybe not this kind of UP, but you know what I mean!
  • That photo reminds me of another important tip: Wear comfortable clothes! I’m talking tracksuits or pajama comfort level; get cosy and make yourself feel lovely because you’re going to have to concentrate. (I’m starting to think I have serious concentration issues considering how many times I have mentioned it in this article!)
  • A top tip I got from my fashion designer BFF based in China is that if you lose your concentration and feel like everything is going wrong, take a break. Put the kettle on, grab some of those nibbles and think about something else for a minute. Ploughing on will not get you your focus back; you will just make some serious mistakes.
  • Get to know your feet! I’m not talking about the ones on the ends of your legs but the little shiny parts you attach to your machine. I somehow ended up with a machine without any extra feet, and so I never learned about them. After discovering the world of sewing machine feet and buying some, my sewing has come on in leaps and bounds. It’s amazing how easy certain tasks become if you use the right foot for it.
  • When tracing and cutting your pattern, use weights to keep it in place. I used sticky tape in the beginning and always ended up damaging my pattern. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something heavy!
  • Check and double check each step before you sew (tearing out your stitches and starting again is an annoying and slow process). It is also quite difficult to do without poking holes in your fabric and destroying the whole friggin’ thing. If you DO have to rip something, use a seam-ripper. Do NOT go at it with a scissors, you WILL cut holes where holes should not be, and that is bad: very, very bad.
  • Make sure you are ONLY sewing what you intended to sew and that there are not extra layers folded under the unforgiving needle. I don’t want to admit how often have I sewn my soon-to-be fabulous new dress to the sleeve of my bath robe.
  • Don’t plan anything major for the rest of your day. I’m always surprised by how exhausted I am after a few hours of sewing. You need to concentrate, but it is so much fun that you don’t realise how much energy is required until you sit down afterwards.

And so, I hope I have encouraged you to give sewing a try. Not only is it fun, but if I can do it then you certainly can! My tips and tricks may not be conventional, but they helped me and hopefully I’ve saved you from learning them the hard way.
First published on Bustle 23 Dec 2014
Images: Author; Burdastyle.com; Getty; Giphy

Soft Cactus in sun


2014-05-16 21.15.19

I made this scarf with three prints from the first range of  Soft Cactus fabrics based on a George and Milly design.
This range was fun to work with because of the matching colour palates and pretty designs.


The second range has just been released and I am looking forward to choosing a project to work with them.
I love the new colour range, my favorites turquoise and mustard are featured strongly.

Oh and did I mention that it’s just €10 per meter!?


Great Expectations

In my teenage years I was in love with the 1998 version of Great Expectations with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. I spent hours pausing it and sketching the pretty shapes and clothes and drawings. I loved the feeling of the film, the fact that the colours reflected the emotions of the scene. Most of the film was green, but you may not have noticed this, it is so elegantly done.
The intro of the film says it all: ” I’m not going to tell the story the way it happened. I’m going to tell it the way I remember it.”

As you can see from these movie stills, the shape of the skirts was also fabulous. It shaped my idea of a perfect skirt. And now I have one of my own!

I made the Clemence skirt from Love at First Stitch by Tilly and the Buttons with fabric from Bobby Sewing.

I am delighted that I won the Sew-along competition on the Sew It Up website with this skirt!
Now I just have to decide what I’m going to spend my prize money on!

2014-11-10 22.37.21

Bouquet of Buttons

Nice links, Sewing

Bouquet of buttons is a lovely sewing and style blog, I will let Lieke introduce herself:

“I like beautiful people, beautiful on the inside that is. I like eyeliner, red lipstick, wearing skirts, the smell of fresh brownies, people who smile randomly on the street, drying my freshly washed hair in the wind, hugs, reading in a hot bath with too much bubbles, walking in the city at night,…

And of course I love my sewing machine and all my supplies.”