Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Looking Like Yourself

What is your beauty goal?  Mine is to look like myself.  My best self, obviously – but not a costume version of me, the me that lives deepest in my psyche.  
The nature of women’s clothing and ornamentation being what it is, costume ideas are constantly being pressed upon us.   It’s Fall – be a scholar!  It’s Spring – be cute!  It’s Summer – be classic!  It’s Winter – be flashy!  It’s nighttime – be a seductress!    This is the point of the fashion industry – to sell you a new self with every season.

Sometimes these costumes are necessary… if I go to work in a bank, I’m going to have to dress like a bankster.   But even so, it is best to retain some bit of one’s personal style – even if it’s just a bracelet.

All women of style (rather than fashion) identify who they really are – and then they wear clothing that seamlessly reinforces that self.  You don’t want to think about your clothing after you’ve put it on.  Holding up a different persona all day is hard work!

Your husband will have preferences, of course – but most men’s preferences are relatively easy to incorporate into your wardrobe. 

So, how am I working on figuring out who I am, aesthetically speaking?  I use pinterest.  You could be a classicist and use a scrapbook, this isn’t a new idea.   You snag images, lots and lots of images, and you stick them somewhere.  After you have compiled a very large stack, over time (you don’t do it all at once, because that will reflect that day, not your true self), you go and look at them.  What’s the common thread?

Start picking through the images.  Which images really speak to you, and which images were just sparkly?  Make one stack for the images that really speak – and look at them.  What’s the common thread ?  (Again).  Now, give your thread a name. 

 The other thing that you do is go through your closet.  Which bits of clothing and ornaments just make you happy?  Stack ‘em up.  What do *they* have in common?  (Now, start wearing those favorites more often.  Yes, even the ostrich boa.  No, I don’t know how.  Work it!)

 What you don’t want to do is buy more stuff that you think is pretty but that doesn’t suit you.   When I first started sewing, I did a lot of this.  I like vintage, so I thought, “Oh this is a cute pattern for a vintage housewife.  I’m a housewife, I like vintage…” and you know… I do love vintage.  But I *don’t* love the 50s color scheme, I don’t love hard angles on anything.  What I was responding to in all that vintage was the femininity and the flowing lines and interesting details.    I made stuff that didn’t really suit me.

 Now that you have a common thread, start adding to your wardrobe items that fit that thread.  What looks like you, feels like you?  Add that.  Don’t add just because something is sparkly.  Take your time and wait for items that truly speak to you.   Then review carefully  after you’ve had them for a while.  Is this you?  Is this speaking to who you are?  Do not shop (or sew) carelessly!
Obviously you’re not going to put yourself in a tiny box – you’ll have more than one clothingself, but they won’t be wildly different.  My “going to church” self isn’t so different from my “going on a date” self or my “reading on the couch” self that you’d be shocked.   Sometimes you need a little more authority, you classic it up a bit.  Sometimes you need to be a bit more sporty.  But you’re always still you.  You don’t change from Sophia Loren to Doris Day!  Doris isn’t going to look seductive if she steals Sophia’s dress, she’s going to look ridiculous.  Likewise, Sophia isn’t going to look clean and sporty if she sneaks Doris’ capris.  You go for whatever, but stay *you*.

There are other elements to looking like your best self – color and shape and fabric, but we’ll hit those another day, perchance.  J

For now, this is my pinterest “things that tell you about me” page, just to give you ideas:   http://pinterest.com/hearthrose/images-that-tell-you-about-me/

Monday, April 22, 2013

Aging Denim

Denim seems to age quite nicely on its own...

I don't suppose you remember this skirt (http://hearth-tobelovely.blogspot.com/2012/08/wardrobe-basic-denim.html)?  I love this skirt inordinately, I wear it probably twice a week.  Here it is tonight on my ironing board. 

You'll see that in less than a year of wear, it's faded into a perfect shade of old-jeans.  The seams have popped nicely, and it's got that coveted worn-denim feel.

I suppose I could have gotten the sandpaper and bleach out - but this is more fun.

Maybe I should make another one?  -laughs-

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tutorial: Seventies Handkerchief Sleeve Dress

There was a lot of interest in the little blue dress I made for my daughter last week, so here it is - pretty much step by step.
1) Cut out the body of the dress.  (Two pieces, front and back).  I have shortened the dress this time to be about knee length.
 2) Cut out the sleeves.  I wanted to make them smaller, but she really likes the super huge sleeve.
3)Prep the sleeve - hem it.  I got a nudge to make a quick backstitch at the corners, and it worked well.

4) Hem the armhole (such as it is).

5) Cut two lengths of ribbon to the length of the first guide.  You could use a variety of ribbon, but you see that even this 2" grosgrain is a bit thinner than the pattern called for.  I used crochet lace last time, and when I did that, I hemmed the top before attaching the ribbon.  This time, with ribbon that would conceal any loose threads, I followed the pattern directions.

6) Sew two rows of gathering stitches at the very top of the dress (front and back).  Gathering stitches are the longest stitches your machine will make.  That's 5 on my machine.
 7) Gather it up until the fabric is 3/4" (or so) shorter than your ribbon. 

8) Pin your ribbon to the start and end of the fabric, and as many other places as you like.  You need to make sure that you have just enough ribbon on each side so you can lap it over and hem it when you're done.  Then scootch your gathers until they're reasonably even.

9) Change thread colors so your thread matches your ribbon as closely as possible, and sew it down.

10) I was careful (for me) to sew the ribbon right on the edge of the grosgrain pattern, where it wouldn't show too badly.

11) Next gathering guide!

12) Measure out enough ribbon to go 'round your subject's waist and tie a comfortable bow.  Mark the center of this ribbon with a pin.

13)  Two more rows of gathering stitches, straight down from the edge of the ribbon (there are proper marks on the pattern, but I didn't use them).  You can really put this where-ever you want, as far as verticals go.  I am making this for an 8yo and she doesn't need much room for bustline.  Hold the front up to your victim, with the top edge of the ribbon whereever you want the collar to be, then figure out where the belt should hit.  (It could have used another inch or so, oh well.  Next dress!)
 14) I tie one side of my gathering stitches before gathering them.
 15) Make sure you gather it up to be the size of your second guide.

16)  Sew down the second ribbon, top and bottom.  Make sure that a) the middle of your ribbon is in the middle of your dress, and 2) that you keep your gathers fluffed out straight to the side of your sewing machine so they don't get sewn down in an odd direction. 

17) I used three colors of thread to make this dress.

18) Having changed to the ivory thread, here I am sewing the lace to the edges of the sleeve.  You COULD sew just one side of the lace....

19) But life is too short to iron the lace down every time I launder this dress, and I know it to be old and delicate lace.  I sewed both sides down.

20) You have all your pieces completely prepped.  Now to assemble the dress.  Figure out where you want the sleeves to cross the dress at the collar.  Since I am making this for my 8yo, the pins are well in from where the pattern calls for them to start.  Not a big deal, so long as I sew it down where it needs to be!

21) Likewise, mark how long you'd like the sleeves to be, where they will look best.  I messed this up - I used the measurements for the first dress and didn't take into account fabric differences.  I will learn my lesson on this SOON, I hope... gah. 

22) The pattern calls for you to sew a great ugly box, but even with closely matching thread (I switched back to rose), that's just too obvious for me.  Instead I put a line of stitches close to the lace of the sleeves and then put a decorative stitch a bit farther out to hold the sleeve even more firmly.  (I didn't do the latter on the blue dress).  Repeat until sleeves are sewn down front and back, each side.  Yes, that's all the attaching they get.

23) Wrap the ribbon over the edge of the dress, sew it down.  No one will ever see this, doesn't matter if it matches.

24) Sew the sides of the dress together.  I used french seams.  That means first I sew things together wrong sides touching, then I trim close to the line of stitching, press it flat, flip it around...

25) and sew the seam so that the right sides are together.  No messy seam fluff!
 26)  Hem it.  A hand hem is always nice, unless you're giving it to a child to wear, in which case ... machine that sucker.

27)  Get your child to try it on, albeit without taking the dress she's wearing underneath off.  Sigh, knowing this is what you're getting for the evening.
Quilting cotton and cotton gauze don't exactly drape the same, but this is still a cute, comfy dress she can wear in the heat of the summer.  I really should have made her let me shorten those sleeves...... :P

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trying to get a unified field theory of style

How do you make a system of checks and balances, so that you look like yourself in your clothes?  This is important to me - not merely figure flattery, but to see a picture of myself and see MYSELF.  That's why I just changed my profile picture - I got a great picture of me that looks like the me that lives in my head.  I think it's probably telling that the picture was taken after an afternoon at the beach with my family, with air-dried, uncombed hair.

I changed the profile not only to be more representative of who I really am, but to remind me of how to get there.  I need the sun, the water, the sound of surf pounding on the shore...

I have a pinterest board where I pin things that remind me of myself too.  http://pinterest.com/hearthrose/images-that-tell-you-about-me/  Why?  Why go to all that work? 

For me, I find myself inspired by things so constantly, I am so easily swept away in "that's so pretty!" enthusiasms, that I often make things that don't quite suit me.  I used to buy things in the stores that didn't suit, simply because they fit and were the right color.  Sometimes it's fun to be someone else in your clothes, but *most* of the time, I want the line between self and ornamentation to be seamless.

Just flipping through the board always leaves me inspired.  Yes, I have a polka-dot dress to sew, and yes, it will look great in my run through with church things (I have a lot of church service to attend to, and daydresses are pretty much perfect), but that's not where my "self" is.  I feel far more like myself in a peasant blouse and my denim skirt.  (I wear my "jeans" at least twice-threetimes/wk - I should probably make another just like it).

Ideally, every bit of my wardrobe would feel like a second skin.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

You win some, you lose some

If I even pretended at being a serious blogger, I'd cut this post up into two or three.  But that's too much like work.  :)  Maybe someday!

You know I put my sewing aside for Spring Cleaning/Lent/pre-Passover prep... but it's been two weeks since Easter, what gives? 

Ah.  You see I have a sad, sad tale.  Before I put sent my machine off to the land of maintenance, I cut two dresses.  They were going to be such easy, lovely dresses. They would look wonderful, and go together in a jiffy!  Why such confidence?  Because I made them off of this pattern:

My prettiest dress!  How could anything possibly go wrong?

Well, after fighting with the fit for two weeks, deciding to give myself an extra bit of ease in the waist, and failing to tak pix wearing a petticoat (because this dress is summerweight, designed to be worn in the absolute heat of summer - plus, turtles and petticoats don't really "go"):

What?  Where's my waist?  I mean, I'm not thin... but I had a waist here somewhere, I know I did.  Where did it go?  Oh well, it works.  We go forward.  I have the other dress cut and ready to sew up... I think I shall draft some sleeves.
So, while having that on the pile to hem (hand hem, naturally) I ordered a cute vintage pattern from etsy for my daughter.  One of those dresses/blouses from the 70s that you either wore or coveted.  (Put me in the "coveted" pile - the closest I got was a handmedown that was a bit big). 
Rummaged in my lace and ribbon box, went out and got some inexpensive crinkle gauze, and less than a day later, my daughter is prancing around in this.  She wouldn't take it off to let me hem it!   It's in the laundry now.... she doesn't get it back until I hem it.  It would look better with a hand hem, but I think it's getting a machine hem.  (Children and hand hems... they don't go together). 

So why is it that the dress I was head over heels with and put so much effort in doesn't look half as cute as the dress I whipped up in a few hours?
1) Fitting.  8yo's dress is extremely not fitted.  My dress is so fitted that 1/8" on a seam can make or break it.
2) Simplicity.  8yo's dress is very simple.  My dress is not.  Princess seams, godets - not simple.  8yo's dress?  Four pieces of fabric, mostly rectangular.
3) Flattery.  No petticoat, no sweater to make me look more hourglassy.  Whereas 8yo looks best in loose clothing and empire waists. 

I don't look good in unfitted garments.  That's just how it is.  So - I have no choice except to get very, very good about fitting. 


Monday, April 8, 2013

Clothing as Art

I follow quite a lot of boards on pinterest that heavily feature clothing that is shown in various museums.  Imagine making such lovely clothing that it gobsmacked generations of viewers.  Yes, some of the clothing is shown because it gives a perfect snapshot of an era - that's the point of museum clothing, much of the time - but others are timeless and stunning.


Art should affect one's soul.  Clothing can be art. 



Now, I don't mean clothing that isn't exactly clothing, that exists only to be wearable art.  I'm not particularly fond of that medium, although I can appreciate it on women of a certain age. 

Clothing (mostly) exists for the purpose of adorning the wearer, and we humans are God's work of art, are we not?  When clothing itself is also art, and the art adorns the creation, then ... then you have something. 


I wish for a time when every person can wear artclothing every day.  That's not this day - art clothing tends to be delicate and illsuited to some jobs (although I find traditional working clothing extremely beautiful). 


Don't be afraid to be a work of art.  You already are.