Finding my style… and it’s not what I thought it would be!

I’ve mentioned in the last couple of posts that I’ve started working through the exercises in Anushka Rees’ The Curated Closet as part of an ongoing mission to figure out what my style really is. It’s something that’s become more and more important to me since I started making my own clothing. When putting that kind of time investment (and a financial one too, sometimes) into making something, it’s really disappointing if it doesn’t feel “me” once I’ve finished. My hit rate has been getting better, but I’m still only at about 50% so I have a fair way to go.

When I was younger getting dressed was easy. I chose a subculture and bought the clothes that fit. First I was an indie kid, then a hippie, then a crusty (yeah, not the best look), then I got more into dance culture and dressed accordingly. When I started teaching I bought clothes that typified librarian chic: A-line tweedy skirts with tight but covered-up tops and cardigans.

Then I had a kid and everything changed. My body size changed, and for a few years I dressed mainly in hand-me-downs from my mum and sister who had both lost weight. I wasn’t all that fussed at the time as I had enough on my plate bringing up a kid with Downs, but eventually I started to look around me and wonder why I looked such a dog’s dinner compared to other women. Why were some stylish and others not? Was it simply something they were born with?

So I started thinking more about clothing, and learnt how to make my own. I was initially drawn to retro style party dresses, but of course I couldn’t really work that 50s pin-up vibe into my everyday wardrobe. It was a high maintenance look that was just for occasional dressing up, and I was okay with that. What I needed was a wardrobe suitable for being a mum and working from home. Comfy, practical clothing, but that suited me perfectly. The search was on…

Over the years I’ve tried many ways of figuring out my style. I read numerous books (Trinny and Susanna and Gok Wan were prime offenders) that gave me lists of clothes I had to own, or styles that would suit my body shape (somewhere between hourglass and pear, apparently) I had a Colour Me Beautiful colour consultation, where I found out I suited soft, cool and deep colours, and I even paid for the Dressing Your Truth online consultation where I found out I was a Type 4 (bold).

However, none of this really helped. Sure, there were some good bits of advice in amongst all of it, but I still wasn’t one hundred percent convinced I was dressing my best. Perhaps that’s because the one place I hadn’t really looked was my own preferences…

More recently I’ve been drawn to the idea of capsule wardrobes and have been trying to let go of any clothes that don’t bring me joy (yep, thanks, KonMari!), but although my pared down wardrobe made me feel much happier, I still struggled to put good outfits together with what I had. I needed to build my wardrobe up again, but where to start?

Finally, I took the plunge and bought a copy of The Curated Closet. Weird it took me so long as I’ve been reading Anushka’s blog, Into Mind, for years and always had the idea I would buy a copy someday. Well, that day came. I read it through, felt excited, then started to do the exercises. Documenting my outfits for two weeks revealed I was in a bit of a rut and wearing the same few items in pretty constant rotation.

Then came the exercise I was most looking forward to: gathering inspirational images. Rees encourages you to devote a solid few hours to this, allowing yourself to go down rabbit holes to find things that really speak to you. I was expecting to come up with some variation on current trends with lots of neutral and muted colours along with flowing silhouettes. And there’s a bit of that, but what I kept coming back to were two of my old faves: librarian chic and rockabilly/pin-up. Two looks I’d thought were too tricky to pull off as a busy mum. But then I realised there were more accessible ways of making it work, and blending the two styles (three if you count the whole maxi skirt thing I have going on) could create something new. Something I’ve decided to call… wait for it:

Off-Duty Rockabilly Librarian

Yep, that about sums it up. It’s a low maintenance version of 50s glam mixed with more contemporary geek chic, and it’s geared towards everyday outfits I’ll find easy to wear. The colours are strong, with plenty of black, navy, cherry red and purple. And the patterns are bold stripes, polka dots, plaid and leopard print. Silhouettes are fitted, waistlines are high, skirts are long, trousers are cropped. Here’s the mood board:

Mood board

I’m so pleased I’ve taken the time to really think about what I genuinely like and feel good in. It’s already helping me with planning sewing projects. I realised I have a whole book full of suitable patterns: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, and I’ve now made two of them. I’ve also realised that I have a fair few items already that will work with this style. And I’m now working through the exercises to help plan what I need to fill in the gaps.

This is even going to help me clear out some of the clutter in my loft. I can see now why certain items of clothing and stash fabrics just aren’t inspiring me, and it’s time to let them find new owners.

Yep, I can see the way forward. I’m already putting together outfits that feel more “me” and people are noticing. I feel confident and a bit sassy, channelling my inner Rizzo (been watching a lot of Grease lately as I’m going to see a local production next month).

Now, excuse me. I’m off to watch Grease again while tracking down some leopard print jersey and sewing myself a red, polka dot headscarf!

 

Ladybird top

I’m doing my best to use up stash these days, both in terms of patterns I already own and fabric. This is a total stashbuster project, using a Seamwork pattern I downloaded back when it was first released.

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In a Nutshell:

A cute summer top, but it took a lot longer than it should have done as the neckline sewing was fraught with issues…

Pattern:

The Aurora top by Seamwork. I’ve loved the shape of this tank since it was first released, and it looked like an ideal hot weather top for me. I tend to live in RTW cami tops in the summer, but am looking to find a TNT sewing pattern that gives good bra strap coverage. I had high hopes for this one! Continue reading Ladybird top

March round up and April’s sewing plans

You know what, I honestly think I might finally have cracked sewing productivity, and over the past couple of months have managed to make one easy (knit) garment a week. It comes down to planning, folks. Simple as that. Last month I took the time to plan out some things I wanted to make in the month ahead, and I achieved most of them! Here’s last month’s post, in case you’re wondering.

I’ve also done a bit of housekeeping on the blog and have finally added a few static pages. You can see them in the blog sidebar. There’s a contact page, a few pages with each year’s blogged makes linked with handy pictures, and another ego-trip page all about me. That last one features a pic of a teenage me modelling the first item of clothing I ever made, back in the 90s. Oh dear. Fashion disaster!

March makes:

I’ve already blogged a couple of my March makes, although most of my March blogging was playing catch up on the first couple of months of the year.

L-R: Craftsy tee, Daisy’s dress

And the next two projects are completed but not yet blogged:

L-R: Seamwork Aurora top, Sew Over It Heather dress

I did also work on the velvet top refashion, but it didn’t work out well. There might be a post in that at some point, if I can finish it off so Daisy can wear it.

Money spent: £15.56

£10.78 for some ponte for making a Heather Dress

$6.00 Seamwork subscription (approx £4.78)

Pretty thrifty month. Yay for using up stash fabrics!

April sewing plans:

Me Made May 2017: my pledge

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This will be my second year taking part in Me Made May, and I had a blast last year. This is my pledge for this year:

I will endeavour to wear two me-made garments/accessories each day for the duration of May 2017 and to only wear each specific combination once during the month.

I’m also planning to finish up the mother of all crochet projects by the end of May: my broomstick Rebel Lace cardie. I think I need a deadline with this one or I’ll be making it forever!

That’s a bit more ambitious than last year, when I simply pledged to wear one me-made garment/accessory each day. I now have more me-mades to work with, though, and I fancy having a go at combining them in different ways. I’m hoping to find some new ways of styling my me-mades–especially the ones that don’t see as much wear.

I’m also hoping that by forcing myself to wear some of my lesser worn garments, I will be able to evaluate whether they have a place in my wardrobe, or if they need to be refashioned or find a new owner. And over the month I’ll be aiming to come up with some more concrete sewing plans for versatile garments I need to fill the gaps in my wardrobe.

I will be Instagramming my outfits each day (as anna_jo_sews), with weekly roundups on the blog.

Now, I need to work on my plans for April’s sewing. Some versatile pieces that can be combined with lots of other of my me-mades, methinks! And some knickers. That gives me a bit of a cheater easy second item to wear with my dresses–you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m wearing them 😛

Anyone else planning to take part this year? And if so, what’s your pledge? Feel free to leave a link in the comments 🙂

Dressing Miss Daisy: the favourite flower dress

Aug 15 078 (Copy)Anyone following this blog for a while will have noticed that I’m fairly selfish sewist, no doubt. Oh, I have plans to make garments for all the people I love most in the world, but with limited sewing time and limited funds I tend to prioritise clothes for myself.

But Daisy often compliments me on my new makes and asks if I can make her something too, so when she picked out this fabric on our pre-Christmas shopping trip to Rose Crafts, I offered to make it into a skirt or dress for her. After Christmas, naturally. I wasn’t that crazy!

And so we got to March, and Daisy reminded me again, and we decided a dress would be a good idea. In fact, what she wanted was a facsimile of her favourite dress. A very old John Lewis pink jersey dress, shown in the pic on the right. She’s been wearing it for a couple of years now but it fits really well and seems to have more growing room. I had a good look at how it was constructed and decided I could probably have a go. After all, how hard could it be? #famouslastwords

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In a Nutshell:

A cute jersey dress in a dark floral pattern. This is so Daisy, and it fits her perfectly! It’s become her new favourite dress. It also counts for my #dressmakingbloggerchallenge for March (Springtime theme) what with that floral pattern. Are dark florals spring-like? Okay, I don’t care. It’s floral, and that’s good enough for me. Continue reading Dressing Miss Daisy: the favourite flower dress

You win some, you lose some: a tale of two tees.

Not all of my sewing projects are successful. Not even when they’re as simple and straightforward as a t-shirt. Here are two tees I’ve recently completed-one win and one fail. And by recently I mean one at the beginning of January and one last week. Partially recent, at any rate!

Major photobombing from my cat, Lottie, in these pics, by the way. Sneaky little so and so!

In a Nutshell:

Even the simplest of projects can go horribly wrong. I’ve learnt lots about what sort of tee shirt patterns suit me, though, so it wasn’t time wasted. Continue reading You win some, you lose some: a tale of two tees.

The Madrid Dress: Seamwork’s Neenah

I’m currently dealing with a severe lack of sleep and two ill boys to look after (okay, one of them is in his 50s, but still a boy when he’s ill), so what better time than to cheer myself up by blogging my favourite recent make? And while wearing it too! Yep, this passes the secret pyjamas test for sure.

Oh, and why the Madrid dress when I’ve clearly been modelling it in my back garden? Read on to find out!

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In a Nutshell:

A quick and easy make that’s become a firm wardrobe favourite. Style and comfort, what more could you ask for?! Continue reading The Madrid Dress: Seamwork’s Neenah