Personal Style: Figuring It All Out

Esteemed Sewing Assistant also works as an Esteemed Wardrobe Consultant.

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The longer I’ve been sewing, the longer I realize it’s not just the technical skills of following a pattern, making adjustments or even pattern-drafting, it’s also about being practical and making sure you wear what you make.

Things are taking a slightly different direction here sewing-wise. I’ve enjoyed and worn my knit projects almost every day, but they haven’t been very gratifying to make. My sewing skills also haven’t improved very much, unless you count that I can now successfully

Since I made my modern transition, I didn’t go out and buy a bunch of clothes since I wasn’t sure how long it would last. I started with two t-shirts, then it got warmer and I added two more tank tops.

I’ve also realized how few items of clothing you really need to make a versatile wardrobe. Since I’ve started sewing knits, I’ve been rotating:

Tops:
- plain black tank top
- black striped t-shirt
- plain dark red tank top
- plain black t-shirt
- plain grey t-shirt

- beaded black cardigan
- long tunic cardigan, homemade

Dresses:
- long striped dress, homemade
- long grey dress, homemade
- long black dress, homemade
- long leopard dress, homemade

Bottoms:
- long lace skirt (not pictured yet)
- long chiffon skirt
- short leather skirt
- leggings
- black pencil skirt, homemade

That’s about five items per category. The key thing is that all the pieces match color-wise (mostly all are grey and black), and all are layerable and have the same style. The dresses are all jersey sleeveless tank-dresses that I’ve been making all summer, and the skirts are either plain long skirts or high-low long skirts. They all have the same silhouette, which is long and layered.

I plan to go back to doing vintage (or vintage-inspired) sewing and dressing, but plan to remove elements that made me hate it in the first place:

- Still no plans to set my hair every night
- No regimented dressing (if something doesn’t fit in the period and I like it, I won’t ignore it)
- Greys and blacks, for now (maybe with a smattering of red, grey-blue, or dark green)
- No high necklines (not flattering on me)
- No circle skirts (too costume-like on me, for now)

Most of the time when I get to the fabric store, I have to ask myself to look at my wardrobe, imagine the finished product, and ask myself if I’ll even wear that. The past two months I’ve bought a lot of black and grey jersey, but I’ve worn my projects almost 3-4x a week. My goal is still to have fun sewing and to wear my projects the same way I’ve been doing now, just with a different look to them.

So what you’ll see here in the future:
- 40s/50s silhouettes
- vintage pattern with modern details (I actually haven’t seen a lot of examples of this on the internet, for example): leather pencil skirts with exposed zippers, cut-on 50s sleeves with lace contrasts, keyhole necklines with lace yokes and leather ties
- more vintage sewing
- more vintage-inspired sewing
- still a lot of greys and blacks

SS2012 SWAP, Revised: Spring palette, what Spring palette?

I’ve been seeing a lot of gorgeous pastel-inspired Spring palettes out there, but you won’t see anything like that here. Spring palette, what Spring palette?

The best thing about sewing entirely in monochrome (off-white, light grey, medium grey, dark grey, black, silver, black/white patterned) is that there’s never an expiration date for this season’s “colors”. I wore black for years and years year-round before I started to sew. I was always told it was a “New York thing”, and lately I’ve been starting to embrace it again, only this time adding pale grey and off-white to the mix.

Here are my candidates for the Spring/Summer 2012 SWAP (sewing with a plan):

Dresses: 2 – Long Dress, One-Shoulder Dress
Tops: 2 – Basic Shirt, Basic Blouse
Pants: 3 – Colette Clover in grey twill (not shown, already done), Colette Clover in metallic denim, Colette Clover in black denim

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Here are larger photos of some of my favorite fabrics from this batch.

The metallic denim I found is gorgeous. It’s very very dark blue but photographs almost black and is shot through with silver.

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This was the fabric that inspired it all. I found this splotchy black/white rayon last week.

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I’ve been quietly following a lot of modern designers as well, but that’s another post for another day.

Image sources: thank you Net-a-Porter for letting me dream big (and plan even bigger.)

This Week’s Unexpected Project: Clover Pants

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Front view.

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Side view.

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Side view, #2.

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Back view.

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Back view, #2.

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(It’s kind of strange to have your butt be on so many angles for the header image of a blog post.)

For this project I used a medium-weight grey twill. I cut the pieces for this project a few weeks ago, put them in a ziplock bag, and stashed them underneath the xbox (the cabinet that the xbox sits on, not the actual xbox itself). I started these on Friday night when I unexpectedly left work late enough to skip going to the dojo (ugh!) and surprisingly finished them on Saturday morning.

I used the same pattern as before except narrowed the leg. This version came along smoothly until it was time to get to the waistband. The fabric I used this time had 0% stretch (mistake #1). I didn’t label the waistband front and back and sewed the front and back on backwards (mistake #2. When I noticed this the waistband was already serged and sewn on, so I unpicked my stitches and cut off the serged part (mistake #3). All of these mistakes compounded to other parts, making the waistband area a lot smaller. When it was time to try on the pants the waist area didn’t fit! I undid the side seam, made some adjustments to the waistband, tried them on, and then they fit. However at this point it was past 2 am and I was convinced they still didn’t fit and I’d have to recut.

On Saturday morning I looked at them again, determined to re-cut if they didn’t fit, and now they fit properly (?!). I guess my adjustments were fine after all. Hmmph.

Also shown here is the Geometric Sorbetto, which definitely looks more vintage with set hair.

Notes for future clovers:
- Label the waistband front and back
- Find a zipper that matches the fabric closely
- Pick fabrics with 4% stretch as recommended by pattern

This project is part of my Spring/Summer SWAP which has changed yet again and needs to be documented properly. More on this in the future.

Geometric Sorbetto with Scalloped Collar

Front view.

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Scallop collar view.

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Scallop collar alternate view.

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Outfit view. (I thought this would look frumpy or baggy but surprisingly no.)

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Closeup. (Still trying to get used to the new 50mm and this whole depth of field thing.)

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I’m a little late on the Sorbetto bandwagon, but here it is anyway.

I first attempted Sorbetto over a year ago which led to a tremendous fail. It didn’t fit, it looked really short and it was weirdly-shaped. I gave it a second try and surprisingly I like it. I drafted a scallop collar which I think (?) makes it look more vintage but it’s hard to say here considering I didn’t set my hair.

Fabric used: Geometric blue cotton voile, remnants (about a yard?). Swiss dot for the collar, less than a yard, also remnants.

Construction notes: Used French seams. Serged the sleeves and hem before folding it over and tacking it down.

What I did differently this time:

  • checked the printed pattern swatch to make sure it was 4×4 (this was crucial)
  • cut a standard size 2 everywhere but cut a size 4 in the armholes
  • drafted some cap sleeves
  • added 4 inches to the hem
  • drafted a scalloped collar which might possibly make me look like a deranged clown, but I like it and I don’t care

I have many more Sorbettos planned out (especially for those remnants that I love to hoard) but hopefully each will look different each time. This is definitely a very versatile pattern.

Pattern Acquisition: McCall’s 4822

McCall’s 4822.

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I’ve been stalking this pattern for a few months now on Etsy, and always hesitating when I press the “buy now” button since I’ve been trying to keep within my monthly sewing budget. However when I saw it somewhere else for a more reasonable price, I finally gave in.

I really like this pattern since can be the foundation for many SWAPs yet to come, and I’ve been really into sewing separates lately. Since I won my three-month skirmish with Clover, I’m no longer afraid of sewing pants. I find that they get worn more often and are more versatile wardrobe-wise. Paired with a self-drafted gathered or circle skirt, this pattern can even be a an appropriate 50s-era dress, or a blouse and skirt faux dress combination.

I’ve been trying to re-use most of my sewing patterns. This is partly so I can focus on getting the fit properly the first time and then get maximum use of it the next x amount of times I decide to make it again and again. I also like the challenge of coming up with something unique looking based on one pattern. It’s impressive to see how much variation can come out of different collars, cuffs, buttons or even colors and weights of fabrics.

This brings to mind my next question: when you start delving into pattern drafting, how many patterns do you really need? Is making the same pattern over and over again (with minor variations) cheating?

Simplicity 1554, Swiss Dot Blouse: 40s does 60s

Front view, #1.

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Front view, #2.

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Front view, #3. Ignore my wrinkly pants.

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Side view.

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Closeup of brooch, swiss dot, and mother of pearl buttons.

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I’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men lately and it’s been starting to show in my projects.

I need more versatile white blouses in my wardrobe and made the peter pan collar version of Simplicity 1554.

The Facts

Fabric: Swiss dot, $7/yd, 2 yd. Cotton batiste, $5/yd, 2 yd.
Pattern: Simplicity 1554
Year: 1945
Notion: snaps, mother of pearl buttons
Time to complete: 12 hours
First worn: Hasn’t been worn yet
Wear again? Yes
Total price: $26

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Pattern used.

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I’ve made this blouse twice before. The swiss dot I was using was sheer and see-through, so I underlined it with white cotton batiste.

Everything went smoothly until I got to the buttonholes. Since it was underlined, the buttonhole had 4 layers of fabric to go through, plus interfacing, and my buttonhole maker got stuck in the embroidered dots of the swiss dots. I hand-sewed some snaps and hand-sewed some mother of pearl non-functioning buttons on the front side. I used French seams on it also.

This is a really good basic piece. It wasn’t too boring to make and will hopefully go with a lot of things. This project is also part of my SWAP.

Spring 2012 SWAP, Revised

After taking inventory of my fabric closet, I’ve revised my sewing with a plan yet again to include even more plain and basic separates and tied the silhouette together even further to look more 40s.

Spring 2012 SWAP:
4 bottoms – 2 pants, 2 skirts
4 tops – 4 blouses
1 dress

There’s nothing more inspiring than watching Hoarders while trying to organize your stash. Most of the fabrics on there are also remnants that I found from sorting my stash over the weekend.

Spring/Summer 2012 SWAP: Revised

Spring 2012 SWAP:
4 bottoms – 2 pants, 2 skirts
4 tops – 4 blouses
1 dress

Since most of my blue twill is suddenly gone (more on that later), I decided to revise my Spring/Summer choices. I also included more versatile bases like high-waisted pants in denim and a more plain skirt. I included Simplicity 1554 a few times since I only have 2 yards of the cotton voile each (and maybe less for the polka-dot rayon) and wanted to make the best of it.

Spring 2012 SWAP

Spring 2012 SWAP:
4 bottoms – 1 pants, 3 skirts
4 tops – 3 blouses, 1 camisole
1 dress

I’ve been thinking about the Spring 2012 SWAP since last year, but it’s only now that I finalized the storyboard for it. I have a habit of making really boring projects that I wear all the time, and I’d like to make more interesting pieces that are fun to make and are still versatile and yet I can still wear it all the time.

I kept the SWAP colors to mainly blue and white with a splash of orange. It was inspired by this scarf. I kept to blue and white for simplicity and hopefully for versatility’s sake.

I always test how the SWAP colors work together by putting everything in a tall pile and seeing if it still looks harmonious.