It’s been a few years since I was a series regular on a TV show, which brought the responsibility of attending lots of promotional and red carpet events as part of the job. Initially they were fun and exciting, but it didn’t take long for the red carpet to feel like a chore, namely because of the unspoken “rule” that as a celebrity you shouldn’t be photographed twice in the same outfit. I think the sentiment of this “rule” is that you want the public to view you as current, busy, and omnipresent, and if every photo the paparazzi snaps of you is in a new outfit (even if it’s in the course of the same day), the idea that you are an “it” celebrity is easy to maintain. Of course this idea is super antiquated and indulgent, but it also sets up an unrealistic and unhealthy goal for regular fashion-loving folk; if the celebrities they constantly see in the media are wearing new duds in every single tv appearance and photo spread, then they too must make sure their closet is packed with as many items as possible so that they don’t have to recycle looks. I have seen major celebrities in magazines be lauded for wearing the same article of clothing at more than one function (“Wow! She paired the same jacket with a different pair of shoes to make it look new!”) as if they had made some ground breaking, unprecedented choice, and I have also seen gossip articles criticizing people in the public eye for wearing the same dress or pair of shoes more than a few times. It’s like you can’t win for trying!

At the time, I accepted the “rule” without too much complaint and I spent my free time standing in line at flash sample sales, “shopping” at gifting suites, and utilizing the coupons that many expensive brands extended to the clients of PR reps so that they could get easy advertising for their clothing. I knew it was a racket, but who was I to challenge the status quo? After all, I was still trying to figure out how to keep my lips from sticking to my teeth after 5 straight minutes of smiling on the carpet! (I know the answer is vaseline, but honestly the thought of that makes me gag).

Eventually my work took me to Canada where the red carpet events were few and far between and I had a chance to think more critically about my own shopping habits. I have always loved clothes and shopping, but I knew that I needed to forge a better relationship with these things that fell more in line with my growing conscientiousness about the effects that clothing manufacturing has on the environment and human lives. Shortly thereafter I started making some of my own clothes, which was exciting and fun, but eventually I started getting invited to red carpet events again once we were settled back in the states. The anxiety of finding something nice to wear to these last minute invitations was high because I had already developed a distaste for buying new RTW clothing. My other option was to to try making red carpet-worthy dresses for myself, but I didn’t have much experience sewing finer materials or complicated pieces. But then I realized that this, of course, was something I could remedy with practice! I started collecting patterns for long dresses and cocktail attire and experimenting with more luxurious textiles like silk. It was weird to spend so much time making clothing that didn’t get worn immediately and instead just sat in a dark closet, so I decided to motivate myself by give my undertaking a name: Operation DIY Red Carpet. It served as a reminder that there was a method to my madness and that I would thank myself later.

valerievonsobel_functionSure enough, about three months after I made Vogue 8827, I was invited to a fancy dinner where I was finally able to wear it for the first time.

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I wore that dress again about two years later to attend the BET Movie Awards with my friend Lance (above), and my good friend Mary looked stunning in it when we attended the Lamda Legal Awards together last weekend (below).


The navy floral maxi dress (Vogue 8827) is a Very Easy Vogue design, and, like it’s namesake, it was very easy to construct because it doesn’t require much fitting to accommodate it’s loose shape. The most complicated part of the make was working with all those yards of material. I love how well this pattern works with the silk fabric, which was purchased from The Fabric Store a few years ago- the large, bold print serves the maxi style so well!


Me and Brittani at Transparent Season 2 Premiere!
Me and Brittani at Transparent Season 2 Premiere!

Several months after I made Vogue 1102 over a year ago, my friend Brittani invited me to be her date to the Transparent Season 2 Premiere, and this is the same dress I wore to the event with Mary. The yellow dress (Vogue 1102) is an absolute joy, mainly because the fabric is SO superb, but the design is also really easy to wear because of the high waistline (you can eat food without worrying about your dress restricting your stomach).


It has a full, flowy skirt that you can only see well when there is a lot of twirling being done- fortunately I am BIG into twirling. Also from The Fabric Store, the fabric is a supple, soft charmeuse. I had never worked with this kind of fabric before and the learning curve was VERY steep- it shows every single pucker and nip so hand stitching the inside of the bodice was a bit of a nightmare. But I successfully created a thin smooth hem at the bottom and that was my biggest concern. I knew this pattern would probably fit poorly in the bodice so I made a muslin first and then made fitting adjustments (everything was mostly too big but some pieces needed to be totally re-drafted).


I have a few more pieces in my Operation DIY Red Carpet vault, some that I have worn and some that I haven’t, and I hope I have time to share them on the blog soon.

Got to meet Daniel Franzese at Lamda Legal Awards, who I love so much!
Got to meet Daniel Franzese at Lamda Legal Awards, who I love so much!

So far, making my own garments to wear to big events has been easy to do because I have the time to spend and the events have been so spread out. But if I find myself on a 16 hour-a-day schedule with an abundance of invites any time soon, making all my clothing probably won’t be sustainable for very long. But I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it; for now, I am happy with the pace that I am creating things, and thrilled that I have found some satisfaction in recycling some of my favorite looks. I am certainly not a big enough celebrity that anyone is very interested in how often I wear an article of clothing, but I think it’s the principle that makes a big difference. As I have written before, empowerment is the biggest gift that being a maker has given me: at the beginning of my career I was too intimidated to oppose the standards that had been set in place, but now I feel confident in using my voice- and my better judgement- to stand up to what feels important, even if I am the only one who is paying attention.


21 responses to “#OperationDIYRedCarpet”

  1. Carlee McTavish Avatar

    I am geeking out so hard over that photo of you and Lance!!!!!!!!!!! Both dresses are stunning, but I think I like the yellow one best (that back detail is amazing!), the Vogue website photos don’t do it justice!

  2. AngelaH Avatar

    These dresses are stunning! I am thinking a silk Sallie might not be a bad addition to your DIY Red Carpet Wardrobe…

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Don’t think that Sallie would work all that well in a woven fabric since it is designed for knits that stretch and the fit in the hips is pretty snug without that give. Also, although I love comfort in my everyday clothing, I am not quite sure I would be into going to a fancy red carpet event sporting an elasticized waist lol…maybe if I was pregnant!

  3. Nilla Avatar

    I think everything you wrote makes so much sense! Perhaps you are the starter of a new movement? (The yellow dress is divine! )

  4. J*a Avatar

    I Love you.

  5. Carmen Avatar

    Wow I love both of those pretty dresses! And I love that you wore your own creation to the season premiere! I’m a huge fan of Transparent.

  6. Renee Avatar

    Erm. A few things. 1. I just read some of your comics (I was looking for High Yellow Magic). But, ended up reading the Kanye one. Jordan loves loves loves 2007 Kanye. That’s how he refers to him, “2007 Kanye”. I saw he and Jay Z in concert and it was probably the best greatest show I’ve ever attended. 2. I’m glad you finally posted the pattern number to the floral job. Ha! I’ve been waiting to find out what it is. 3. I was going to make that yellow dress at some point and a few blog readers warned me off of it for fit. But, you totally made it work for you. Finally, I really enjoy reading these thoughtful posts. So many people have an internet persona but you don’t know what really motivates and drives them. Or, if they are in fact real or just playing a sewing blogger on the internet. I have another comment but this one is getting long and I feel like a stalker.

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Aw man, I remember during our FRIENDSHIP BLACKOUT you asking where High Yella Magic was, and me trying to respond in the middle of laughing at something else and being dizzy from happiness, so the answer probably got lost in the shuffle…looking at my website now I see how it’s confusing/disorganized. HYM was a comic compiled of lots of random experiences from my past, but I see now that I never put them under the same heading on my site. So like, CRAYONS, REVLON and SEDI are all a part of the HYM umbrella, cause they are real life stories, but some, like Kanye, also have me in the story but aren’t actually based in reality (OMG remember how Jordan read and liked the Kanye comic?? I AM STILL SO HONORED! lol). Anyways, sorry for the confusion there- I could definitely make that more clear in a future update to my site! Also I ABSOLUETELY think you could make the yellow dress work for you. It’s just the bodice that needs extra care, and in my experience it was a totally manageable thing to adjust, especially because the back is mostly open so the fitting for that area is essentially just the side pieces – there aren’t any darts on the back or anything, it’s more about reworking the curves on the inside back pieces and making sure the shoulder seams at the top fit well! DO IT! This would be a gorgeous fit for you. I’m thinking that if I find the right material I could make this dress with a floor length skirt and it would be pretty freaking dynamic. Sorry it took so long to share the pattern for the floral number- I am so forgetful sometimes! Also also also…REMEMBER WHEN WE MET??!?!?!?!! *swooning*

      1. Renee Avatar

        Why did your entire response make me laugh right out loud at my computer? Why?

  7. Sarah Avatar

    These are so great. It is so much fun to make truly beautiful frocks, and have decent places to wear them to. I look forward to seeing your other beautiful gowns.

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thanks so much for reading!

  8. Sarah Avatar

    Have you been asked who you are wearing yet? And how have up you answered?

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      yes, I tell them I am wearing a dress I made and they usually don’t at all understand what that means and so they move on to the next person on the carpet LOL

  9. Francesca Avatar

    I came here from closet case and am so glad I did – these are amazing dresses! You are inspirinig!

    Re future red carpet things – how about really glam separates? Say silk satin palazzo pants and then different tops? Or a gorgeous skirt you can team with different tops?

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      yes, I have some separates in my red carpet closet, I just haven’t worn them or had a chance to take photos of them quite yet 🙂

  10. Hils Avatar

    wow these dresses are fabulous! have you created a fashion house name for the “who are you wearing?” 😉
    I had a question about the fit issue you mentioned, are they the usual generally too big issues that are common with Vogue, or was there some particularly tricky bits? I’m making this for my sister but she’s in another city so fitting won’t happen… trying to guesstimate based on other vogue fittings I’ve done for her in the past…

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thanks so much 🙂
      I’m not sure what your relationship with Big 4 patterns is…my experience is that not only are they too big, but they are also a little wonky for my frame, maybe because I am petite, so simply sizing down doesn’t always fix the problem, particularly if the garment is a little complicated or has many pattern pieces. Simply sizing down in the bodice of the yellow dress would have not have fixed my issue; I had to completely re-draft the front and back pieces, otherwise the dress would have gaped in the back and not laid down properly against the curves of my body (I know this only because I made a muslin of the bodice to figure out where the issues would lie- the front piece wasn’t too bad but the back side pieces had to totally reshaped). So not sure if that helps you at all, but hopefully it does 🙂

      1. hils Avatar

        sweet thanks! going to do muslin through the mail i think… not risking that back fitting to chance!

  11. Brooke Avatar

    I came here from Renee’s site where I have lurked off and on for years – I can’t believe you sew! You were one of the very best things about Fringe, and terrific in Scandal, and I’m so happy you blog about it. Also, that constellation quilt is gorgeous. You’re the coolest!

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thanks so much for hopping over here after lurking around on Renee’s blog! I love her blog- I lurked there, too for a while- and I love her in real life! I just had the chance to meet her in person a couple of weeks ago and she is so great! Thanks for your sweet comment- so happy to have you here 🙂

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