Have you managed to figure out my signature style yet? Good, cause I haven’t either. After a brief stint of sewing solid, wearable basics I had to veer out of left field with this bright, slightly insane number.
Over the last few months I have started to work through the Wardrobe Architect, with the goal of determining the core of my aesthetic and keeping that in the back of my mind as I sew. Hopefully this will leave me with a well-rounded, personally ME wardrobe that makes getting ready in the morning a cinch while always feeling good.
My style has been on a bit of a pendulum. Visually, I am attracted to bright, vintage inspired pieces with a touch of the adorable. Poufy crinoline dresses, bow hair clips, graphic patterns and novelty prints. Personality wise though, I don’t particularly enjoy the attention that comes with such a style, and so I tend not to commit to a look 100%, or try to hide these elements in more subdued pieces. This then looks disjointed and I feel less than confident in this a half-baked attempt and ultimately the pieces I am drawn to sit in my closet, barely worn.
In reaction I have found the softer, more modern equivalents of this feminine style and found myself feeling refreshed and confident. Loose, draped dresses, comfortable knits, and solid fabrics. Focusing on neutral colours and pieces that can be worn in a number of ways, I am attempting to drive my wardrobe in this direction.
But sometimes you find this amazing psychadelic knit fabric on sale and all that goes out the window.
Last summer I re-watched the entire series of Mad Men and bookmarked the styles and dresses I really admired. One of them was this olive green dress Peggy wore in season 5. Putting it in my mental filing cabinet (and Pinterest board), I hoped one day to replicate it. It was later I found Butterick 3435 in my vintage pattern bin. The dress was meant to happen.
When I took this fabric home, I knew that I could use this pattern and make a sweet sixties shift – though it is much bolder than Peggy would have ever worn. I was excited to use this modern fabric on this vintage pattern and make it something eye-catching.
The pattern was designed for woven fabrics, so I had to alter it for the knit by removing the darts (by semi-neatly folding it in on the pattern piece before cutting) and removing the seam allowances (both for tighter fit and accounting for the little seam allowance with the overlocker.
One of the biggest challenges I had was really understanding how the fabric would behave in the context of this dress. I ended up taking in even more fabric as I did fittings but noticed the bodice was twisted a little, and since I removed the zipper from the equation, I stretched out the neckline when I first put it on (thank goodness for the collar ultimately hiding that bit). It also didn’t respond well to pressing and shaping the collar (also a knit) was an exercise in frustration.
I did learn some new techniques I am quite proud of, which included making a key-hole in the back neckline (so I could get my head through without more stretching) and hand-making a thread loop for the button.
As I was making this dress I had the doubts in my mind, stemming from how impractical this dress seemed. The bold vintage dresses in my closet (like so) are rarely worn. I felt like I was breaking all my newly set rules and I was uncomfortable with that.
I plugged along, working through the dress if for no other reason than to publish something on the blog this week. It felt kind of pointless, knowing it would soon be hanging in the closet for eternity, only adding to the over abundance of clothing I already own.
Then once it was all finished and I got ready to photograph the dress, something strange happened.
I looked in the mirror and felt so GOOD. More so than any other crazy dress in my closet has made me feel. It suddenly didn’t matter if people thought I looked odd – I felt like I looked wonderful. The colours and the shape and the styling just DID it for me. Plus, this dress is dang comfortable, like pajamas. I spent the evening after these photos with a milkshake watching Netflix.
While we endeavour to shift our focus from the frivolous makes to more conscious sewing, it is so easy to feel restrained by the new ‘rules’ we put on ourselves. Is it practical? Can I wear it to work AND a night out? Do the colours suit me? Is it mix and matchable? Is it what I see myself wearing? Does it check all these boxes?!?
These rules are great and are the foundation of a sustainable me-made wardrobe, but sometimes you got to go with your gut. You need to go out there and make something that makes your eyes light up, that make you feel powerful. The garments that take you away from your daily ‘self’ and into your alter ego. If we don’t allow ourselves these makes – then what is the point of being in this creative hobby?
So go, fellow seamstresses: make that tulle maxi skirt, that brocade jacket or sequined trousers. Let us embrace the insanity of the limitless and make something truly awesome. No, I probably will not be wearing this dress to work anytime soon, but its going to be worn again and again and make me feel confident, stylish and awesome.
That’s why we make things, right?