Where to begin?

Costume from Albania, Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania.
Costume from Albania, Poland, Bulgaria, Poland again, and Romania from the book Folk Costumes of the World by Robert Harrold and Phyllida Legg.

Since this is a blog about fashion, the creative process, and sharing ideas, I figured I would jump right in and tell you what’s been inspiring me lately.  I’m usually thinking about someplace else, the future, the past, a memory, a wish, an escape, a daydream.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I love folk wear/ethnic dress/traditional costume and how I want to be the strange woman who wears them un-ironically.  I love the colors and the silhouettes and how playful and meaningful the design elements are.  I love that people still wear them today even if it’s for Oktoberfest or day to day life. Most of all, I love that anything goes and there’s an endless variety of detail and possibilities in how to decorate the human form.

In fashion design school, they teach you to use your inspiration as a starting point and push far beyond the ideas that historic costume provide but somedays I just want to slap on an embroidered dirndl and dance around a maypole (inaccurate but fun). Or slip on my moccasins and all the turquoise jewelry I can muster and write poetry and pretend I’m Millicent Rogers  (that could happen). Or block print my own Southern Pacific inspired muumuu (dare me).


My friend and designer Carla Rickenbacher designed a womenswear collection inspired by the 50’s but I think there’s a heavy dose of her Swiss heritage in there as well.  I see the celebratory and spirited quality of folkwear but she really extended the idea, and the garments didn’t look like historical reproductions.  Today she’s designing childrenswear and developing her knitwear collection.

Here is her work in process:

I adore these sketches.

Ulyana Sergeenko is a Russian designer that I’ve been watching for awhile.  Haute couture can easily border on traditional costume which is why I think Vogue wasn’t as thrilled with the collection as I was.  I thought it was really rich, and dare I say a word that doesn’t come up very often these days: ladylike.

Sergeenko Style

I can’t wait to find out more about all the traditional costumes of the world and see what how I can develop this new passion. I’m going to start with this book, and then do a little drawing and take a bunch of pictures.


11 thoughts on “Where to begin?

  1. I’m a fan! I really enjoy hearing where other designers’ inspiration comes from. Not having a formal design education can leave a girl feeling lost sometimes. Looking forward to more of your posts, Katya!!!

  2. I don’t know how to ‘like’ this, but I like it… I also love the ‘ethnic’ color and style and it would be great to see it brought into ‘modern’ dress more. I especially like Carla’s last two sketches where she plays with the shape of the ‘skirt’ or pants as the case may be. The billowy skirt that is then pulled in at the bottom is just great, as are the slender hipped and wide legged pants. The colors and styles of the ‘russian’ models #1,2, 4 I like a lot… while somehow #3, lower left corner, seems less interesting, though I like the skirt length which is better than the to the floor models. Your ethnic dress book looks fascinating… Keep me updated on what you are doing as I’d love to follow it. Thanks for sharing. Don’t forget that the majority of women are NOT fashion models.. and all older women must have some sleeve as our upper arms get … awful to show… we also cannot wear our skirts too short as our legs are no longer what we want to show off… except for Sophia of course! Great blog

  3. It’s such a shame that the “gray market” is so overlooked. It’s a seriously ignored market and it’s such a big one. Not to mention, they’re established, loyal, and discerning customers. Another topic to discuss here. Thanks for reading!

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