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!

 

Rainy Day Cardie

This is a toile for a pattern I’ve had my eye on for ages. Apologies for the ropey indoor pics. It just wouldn’t stop raining!

ETA: I realised this morning that I made a mistake while sewing this. See sections in bold italics below!

SONY DSC

In a Nutshell:

I’m considering this casual cardie a success for a toile, even if it hasn’t had any wear just yet… It’s also a proper multitasker as it qualifies as my make for the following 2017 pattern challenges:

#wardrobebuilder: January: Jumpers and Sweaters

#dressmakingbloggerchallenge: January, Keep it Cosy

#2017MakeNine: cardie

Pattern:

The Wembley Cardigan by Seamwork. It’s a relaxed fit, cropped cardigan without any fastenings to worry about, so a really quick and simple sew as all Seamwork patterns are intended to be. I cut a straight size small based on my bust measurement, reasoning there was really no need to grade this out to a medium at the hips as it’s such a relaxed style. Continue reading Rainy Day Cardie

2017 sewing plans (#2017MakeNine)

 

I’ve been following Rochelle’s blog for ages now, and I really like her approach to creating a wardrobe of handmade items that really fit with her lifestyle. So this year I thought I’d give her #2017MakeNine sewing challenge a go. Nine items shouldn’t be too many to make in one year, and the idea is to keep the list fluid, changing things as and when I see fit. I’ve been thinking hard about capsule wardrobes and the garments I feel a need for when rooting around for something to wear. Rather than picking just nine patterns I’ve instead picked nine types of garment, with several pattern options for most of them. The idea is that I will hopefully find a pattern in each category that I like enough to want to make several versions of it in different fabrics and colours.

Dresses:

Dungaree dress

cleo

There’s only one contender here and that’s the Tilly and Buttons Cleo Dress. I’ve wanted a dungaree dress for ages–I last had one when I was pregnant with Daisy (who’s now 11!) and I wore it to death. I have been seriously inspired by alisesaye‘s gorgeous version pictured, and I have some aubergine needlecord in my stash which would be perfect for this pattern. It that works well then I’ll want to make a denim version too. Continue reading 2017 sewing plans (#2017MakeNine)

Totally not boring Grey Surplice Dress

This is the last of my 2016 makes to blog (completed early November), which means I’m not doing too badly this year! Blogging more promptly should definitely be a New Year’s resolution, though…

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In a Nutshell:

A simple, neutral knit dress that’s already become a firm wardrobe favourite!

Pattern:

This is the Surplice Dress from the Craftsy Sewing With Knits class. It’s a simple knit dress with an empire line waist, a wrap bodice and an A-line skirt. The sleeves are meant to be elbow length but ended up being slightly shorter because of an alteration I made (more on that later). Based on my measurements I cut a size M.

Fabric:

Grey ponte from Sewn Bristol (I can’t see it in the online store and I bought it back in the summer so perhaps it’s all gone now). I am seriously amazed by the quality of this fabric. At £5.50 a metre I assumed it might not wear all that well–after all, every single ponte I’ve bought in the past has bobbled after a couple of washes, despite me treating it like royalty with the finest delicates detergents, washing cycles and line drying. Continue reading Totally not boring Grey Surplice Dress

My Capsule Wardrobe: first attempt

lolcat-fashion

I’ve now got all the rest of my family sick with a tummy bug. Well, that’s not strictly true as Gabriel is pretty much better now, but he still needs to stay indoors and away from other children for another 24 hours.

Anyway, I’ve had a fair bit of thinking time over the last few days and one of the things I’ve been thinking about is clothes. Specifically, what I need to stay cosy and reasonably stylish for the winter, as after clearing out the stuff that’s now too big for me my wardrobe is sorely lacking in appropriate clothing. Back in 2015 I spent some time trying to wrap my head around what a capsule wardrobe would mean for me–I devoured the Colette Wardrobe Architect posts and was a regular visitor to the blog Into Mind–but for some reason I never quite figured out how to whittle my clothing into any kind of coherent capsule. I’ve never been a particularly minimalist person, and while I’m increasingly drawn to the idea it’s tough to figure out how to downsize my possessions. I also have a fair few items of clothing that I’m attached to, but that only go with one or two other things. I KonMaried my wardrobe a couple of years ago, but it was in need of another overhaul.

Yesterday I reread this post on Un-Fancy and suddenly something clicked. Continue reading My Capsule Wardrobe: first attempt