Imitation vs Inspiration // Authenticity in Style and Sewing

Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

Have you ever seen a photo of someone and just wished you could be them? Whether it was their on-point style, their illustrious setting, or their radiating confident attitude. This can lead to jealousy, but oft lends itself to ideas and inspiration. Pinterest has opened the doors to every image of every style imaginable perfect for each person’s tastes. Personally, I can’t get enough of vintage photos and styling, especially from the mid-century. I want to be transported to that era of designer dresses, flawless eyeliner and sculpted to perfection hair. I imagine the feeling of exuding youthful coolness and fun, so effortlessly.

Style icons, muses, and inspirations do come from all eras, times and places for me, but ever since I opened a John French Photography calendar when I was 15, model Jean Shrimpton became one of those women captured in time that I’ve always wished I could be.

I guess what all this is getting at, is that the real reason I arranged a full out sixties photo shoot was that I wanted the opportunity to be Jean for a day. There’s a photo from a 1965 issue of Vogue that just captures the essence of everything I love and admire about the decade. I’ve always wanted to step inside that photo and live a bit of that reality. While that isn’t possible, I looked to the talented friends around me and thought, if I was going to make it happen, we could do it right.Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

The whole experience was a dream, a day full of laughs, inspiration, (and a few dresses thrown in for some good blogging measure). I could not be happier with everything that came as a result. But as I started to share and post the photos, I felt a twinge of apprehension.

If you know me in real life, you know this isn’t how I dress and look everyday. In fact, I appear very 2016 casual. I am by no means committed to vintage style regularly. I love it, but it doesn’t always work for me, and takes more time and effort than is usually available. I worried that people who knew me thought I was simply wearing a costume, or those who found me and the blog through these photos would find some of my other sewing projects and feel like I’ve deceived them, thinking I was a mod-girl 24/7.

It’s really a shame that in this day and age, with access to so many influences and muses, there is still the prevailing idea that we are supposed to be committed to a single style persona. We’re encouraged to explore and develop our personal style, but there’s a catch; “It’s totally okay to be anything you want to be, but as long as you stick to that one thing.” I understand why we think this way, if someone presents themselves consistently, it’s easy to understand and relate to them.

Authenticity in Style // Boots & Cats

I, and so many people I know, have such an array of interests and fashion muses that it seems inefficient (and boring!) to stick within that box. It can be hard, because to people who don’t know you, it creates a dissonance in who they’ve assumed you are, but I think we need to work toward allowing ourselves to take on a new persona as frequently as we like without fear of being judged as fake, or a poseur, because you fail to commit to a single definition of how you look everyday. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable to be a 60s girl one day, to a J. Crew girl the next, and a fluffy skirted fashion blogger the day after that.

The way I see it, there are so many ways to draw elements of your style in different ways, and those may change depending on the aspects of your life. Sometimes certain things don’t fit the situation , but it’s a balance of your mood of the day, convenience and practicality, your environment, your dream self and your aspirations that all work together to create your style output. And sometimes that means you appear radically different each day to the next.

And then, if that wasn’t enough, you have to wonder, no matter how you choose to present yourself, where are you drawing your style from? How is it influenced from those you admire – by drawing your look from someplace else, where is the line between imitation and inspiration?Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

These photos, for example, were planned out down to the colour and size of the flowers to directly reflect the photo in Vogue. Does that mean I wasn’t creative enough? Is my choosing to recreate something that brings me joy celebrating the influence it’s had on me, or does it display a lack of individual creative thought?

In the world of sewing, I often ask myself if choosing to make a dress exactly how it appears on the pattern envelope makes me less of a creative person than someone who hacks, slashes and reinvents the design or even drafts their own concept from scratch? Sometimes, the way a garment is presented by the designer is exactly what I want to have in my life, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for not re-interpreting it.

Can you even compare someone looking for something relaxing and straightforward make with someone who had the desire to inject their own elements based to grow their skills and techniques? Maybe it’s not something we should consider at all, and instead look at the act of creating ANYTHING as a marker of expression and leave it at that?

Authenticity in Style // Boots & Cats

To me, creativity is a spectrum and there’s no wrong way to do it. Following the steps 1-2-3 can be an entryway to learning something new, or even a relaxing way to keep moving forward. I didn’t stray very far from the envelope my first few patterns, and I stick pretty close when I entering new territories (sewing with knits, or tailoring) or even trying a new craft altogether. It’s okay to make the decisions and play out your work in the way that speaks true to you.

Recreating these photos brought me, and those who helped me bring it to life, a lot of joy. The fact that we had to plan, collaborate and bring everything together was enough of a journey that, even though we were quoting the source material, lent itself a voice of it’s own.Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

I believe the reason the online sewing community in particular is thriving is because of the concept of inspiration. I don’t know about you, but before I purchase any new pattern, I have to do an image search for every possible version I can find of it made online. It helps me visualize what can be possible, and what options are open for me to explore. I enjoy seeing how everyone infuses their own elements of style. I find things that have been made the exact same way I want to make it, and I am sometimes pleasantly surprised with twists people have put on things that I hadn’t even considered before. There is so much to be gained by just being open to the ideas and concepts from everyone, and getting to know all sides of them, and embracing the style they present.

Something as simple as a few fun photos can open up so many questions! I definitely would love to hear any thoughts you have on the subject as well. Do you feel comfortable deviating from your ‘normal’ style, and does sewing allow you to do that more easily?

And when you are creating something, how closely can you draw from others before it becomes more than just inspiration? Have you ever felt nervous to share something you are afraid people will judge as inauthentic or copied, even if your journey to that result was completely you own?

5 thoughts on “Imitation vs Inspiration // Authenticity in Style and Sewing

  1. It’s about doing something you really like. It’s not important where you draw inspiration from its just about being happy and content with what you’ve created!

  2. I also google a pattern before I buy it… and then before I make it for the first, and maybe the second time. I love the inspiration I get from other people’s makes and the tips or tricky parts they may have run into!
    And sewing has really opened up my style. Part of it is that I didn’t really wear skirts before I started sewing for myself, but they’re so easy to make and I think I just needed to find the right type (full and 3/4 circle skirts!), since I wear them all the time now. I do have more realistic reasons (a job), but I think having them in my closet would guilt me into wearing them anyway.
    PS Your photoshoot pictures are lovely!

    • It’s so awesome to have such a database of information at our fingertips. It definitely helps to get started on a project.

      I love that sewing has expanded your style – it’s so powerful that way.

  3. I am so with you on this … in a post post modern era or hyper modern or whatever you want to call it, forced consistency has more to do with marketing than art, with brand identification than self expression… For me the idea of branding yourself is simply ridiculous! I also like to wake up in the morning and decide who I want to be – it sort of expands my reality and frankly amuses me

    • Yes. I totally agree! It’s this notion that we as people are ‘brands’ on social media. It’s no much more interesting when you can see how people are multi-faceted.

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