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DIY

From Slouchy To Sleek

September 16, 2007|Melissa Magsaysay | Times Staff Writer

No one knows hoodies like Mike Gonzalez and Christine Park-Gonzalez, the husband and wife team behind the label Mike & Chris. Two years ago, they produced a tight group of hooded sweatshirts that redefined the garment, trading slouchy fleece for chic details such as pleats and ruching, and fabrics such as leather, metallic leather and nylon.

"An interesting hoodie is the one piece that can define an outfit," Gonzalez says. "You can be wearing a simple tank and a pair of jeans, and the hoodie becomes the focal point."

Now the line ranges from their signature leather hoodies to a full collection of men's and women's tops, pants, bags and shoes. Jessica Alba, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore are fans. And Mike & Chris pieces sell for hundreds of dollars, alongside the coolest lines at Barneys and American Rag.

On a recent visit to their downtown L.A. studio, we asked Gonzalez to show us how to customize a basic hoodie into something stylish. In an astonishing 40 minutes, with little more than a needle and thread and a length of elastic, he turned an oversized men's sweatshirt into a fantastic hooded tunic, with a sporty feel and an origami pleat in the back.

"We've always liked to take something simple and generic and make it more interesting and individual," Gonzalez says.

He started with a gray, XXL hooded sweatshirt that he bought downstairs from a street vendor for $12.99. "You can also take an old sweatshirt from your brother or an old boyfriend and do this."

He laid it out on his work table and chopped the body in two. He picked up the top half and attached a strip of elastic inside the shoulders to create a ruched effect, then grabbed the bottom piece and fitted it tight at the ribcage. The excess material formed a flap at the back that, with a quick ironing, turned into the long origami pleat. The original side seams created a flattering corset effect.

He sewed the top and bottom back together. A few more snips and he'd cut off the sleeves and folded them back to create a contrasting fleece cuff. And there it was: a ridiculously stylish silhouette, tight where it should be, the excess fabric falling at exactly the right spot, the enormous front pocket flattering the hip and stomach. A shorter woman could wear it as a dress; taller women will want dark leggings or skinny jeans. And the more you wash it, the less stiff it will be and the more like your favorite old hoodie.

Gonzalez was so pleased with the result, he plans to include the dress in the next Mike & Chris collection.

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melissa.magsaysay@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

HOW TO MAKE A HOODED TUNIC DRESS

Adapted from Mike Gonzalez of Mike & Chris

Time: About 40 minutes.

Materials: A men's hooded sweatshirt size XXL, scissors, needle, thread and a piece of elastic one-quarter-inch wide and about 12 inches long.

1. Lay the sweatshirt flat on a table. About half an inch below the lower part of the armhole, cut the sweatshirt in half horizontally.

2. Turn the top half inside out. Take the elastic and lay it over your shoulder with one end starting at the side of your neck. Cut it off where your shoulder ends. Sew one end of the elastic to the neck opening on the sweatshirt and the other end onto the end of the shoulder. Then stretch out the elastic and while it's stretched, sew the entire length of the elastic onto to the shoulder seam. After it is sewn down, the elastic should snap back so the shoulder is ruched when turned right-side out. Repeat for the other shoulder.

3. Take the bottom half of the sweatshirt and slip it on so it fits tightly around the rib cage. Grab the extra fabric in the back -- this extra fabric will become the origami pleat. Sew the top of the pleat closed. Iron the pleat down, so the folds are nice and crisp and the effect looks intentional.

4. Connect the top to the bottom: With the top and bottom turned inside out, gather the top evenly so its raw edge aligns with that of the bottom (you will need to create little gathers so that the top will become as small as the bottom; they don't need to be uniform). Pin the top and bottom together, right sides facing each other, and sew the seam. Turn right side out.

5. Make the sleeves: Measure about 6 inches from the top of the shoulder down the arm and about 4 inches from the underarm down the arm. Mark the spots, and cut the arm off on a diagonal line formed from these measurements (the angled slice makes a dolman sleeve). Fold the sleeve up, tuck the raw edge under to make a two-inch contrasting fleece cuff. Turn inside out and sew down the edge of the cuff (the bottom edge of the cuff should meet the armpit seam). Repeat for other arm. Turn right side out and wear as a dress or a tunic, with leggings and skinny jeans.

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