those elusive wardrobe goals

The impossible happened: I found an image on Pinterest that captures all I want from my work wardrobe. Just like that, it expresses exactly the look I’m after. Here it is, folks, the essence of my wardrobe goals:

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Image found on Pinterest hereabouts.

Before finding this gem I was very skeptical of Pinterest as a helpful tool for me where style is concerned. The site still in fact keeps suggesting images of waifish Olsen twin lookalikes carrying enormous cups of Starbucks coffee while sporting sack dresses with knit cowls the size of millstones draped around their long, slender necks.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s more than fine to be waifish. Hey, it’s okay to be an Olsen twin or an aficionado of the sisters. It’s not fun to be constantly flashed the message that that’s the way to be though. It gets exhausting. Oh algorithms, oh the shortcomings of our culture, oh my poor little head.

Brace yourselves because I have yet deeper thoughts about why that image above speaks to me. It’s not just my non-waifishness and aversion to the pairing of thick woolens over summer dresses (throw in some boots and you get a popular combination that is completely unwearable to me). It’s a combination of — as one musician said about touring (and life and the universe at the same time) — good shit and bad shit. Pardon my language.

I like to be comfortable at work. I often have to stand in front of people and talk, which has gotten easier over the years but is still challenging on some level because I don’t really enjoy being looked at all that much. Overall, I feel must comfortable at work when my wardrobe tilts into a somewhat androgynous, menswear-inspired zone.

The way it makes me feel is good. And many of you, I think, will agree there can be something very stylish and appealing about that.

Bear with me here because we might disagree on what I say next. Part of the reason why clothes like those make me feel so good is positive, maybe even wholesome you could say. Hurrah for flat shoes, hurrah for pants that let you move around, and shirts with neat details.

But here’s the dark side. These clothes make me feel comfortable because they make me feel safe. More feminine clothes make me feel unsafe and bared to judgment. It sucks.

I’m not invested in ideas of modesty — that’s after a lot of thinking about the subject, and after being brought up to be modest and dress modestly, and after a lifetime of listening to women being described in terms that implied that their dress conveyed something about their morals and, sadly, value as fellow people.

I hate all that with a passion. But as much as I examine my own thinking about other women, when it comes to getting dressed, the “good shit” still mixes together with the “bad shit.” Plainly: I’m both enthused about those lovely menswear-inspired outfits and kind of scared of dressing “too feminine.” Here’s where that leads me sometimes: I will look at a coworker wearing a dress and think that she’s really brave. Yeah, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? But it’s true.

I’m just going to leave this up here and close with some images from my “work” Pinterest board, including some slightly more feminine ones (how brave of me, after what I confessed above — Please note the sarcasm).

What’s your mix of good and bad when you figure out how you want to dress?

All images can be found on Pinterest. You can also take a look at my “work, work” board where I collect wardrobe ideas and then get this kind of deep thoughts.

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sneaking a peek

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Apparently I’ve forgotten how to blog. It all started with an allergy to photo-taking combined with heat-exacerbated decision fatigue. Translation: I wasn’t getting much sewing done. Then I sewed a few things, but only when I broke the cycle.

This is what happens to me:

I stare from the pile of fabrics to the pile of patterns I just selected. None of the patterns seems good enough for the fabrics at first. Then I inevitably pick the challenging ones, with a lot of shaping. They all need muslining. It turns out I’m out of muslin and willingness. And so the fabrics end up being too precious and I get stuck.

The remedy: easy sewing. The photo above is one of such easy projects that got me sewing again. Now to get it photographed and give it a proper post…

But first a couple of questions for you if you have a minute: Do you ever get stuck in this way? What slows you down or drains your sewing motivation?

Me-Made May 2017: Days 15-21 and new makes

Another week, another roundup. Again, there were repeats. But there were also two new garments, which I sewed frantically, stabbing my fingers and going slightly insane with all the tubes of fabric that needed to be turned out (belt loops are not my friends).

 

May 15 was one of those days that forced a costume change. I spent the first half of the day working from home. So first I tried the nightwear-as-daywear trend, donning an Almada robe over a Scout tee sewed in the same fabric (a really lovely rayon from Joann fabrics, which I bought a lot of last year).

Later on I changed into my beloved wannabe ’70s pants and I added a cardigan I knitted a couple of years ago (wool/silk, so pretty warm weather friendly).

May 16-18: a repeat vortex. I wore that Laurel dress on May 16 and again on the 18th, which was a Thursday, so I decided I’d say I did it as a throwback to Tuesday — ha! I have no excuses for the 17th when I wore the Scout tee yet again, but this time with the Beignet skirt.

… And that skirt reminded me of the Beignet skirt I vowed to make right after I finished the first one. I ended up cutting the second one out bit by bit over several months — first the lining, then, eventually, the shell. I had project resistance, which I couldn’t quite explain until I dove into actually making the skirt. It’s not the easiest skirt.

This time I chose to add a lining (thrifted poly print). The belt and shell fabric is a black cotton twill, the pockets are from some sort of a wool/poly remnant.

Excuse the water stain visible in the photo below… and the black on black. Not all photo shoots are inspired, what can I say. I was trying to clean a persistent chalk pencil mark that just didn’t want to go away. I thought it had dried by the time I took the photos but, clearly, it had not.

I still like this pattern a lot. I find it flattering, I love that it has pockets. What I dislike are the belt loops which still this second time around feel like they’re drafted slightly too short and too narrow, like it’s a matter of 2-3 milimeters, but these feel pretty critical.

Another gripe is the belt because, in contrast, it seems too wide. After turning it out I turned it back inside out (ouch, my hands!) to shave off about 1/4″. That’s it for the gripes, it still deserves a thumbs up.

I’m not sure you can spot it in these photos (unlike the highly visible water stain) that my buttonhole luck left me on this one. The fabric wasn’t that bulky, but it was a bit tricky for my sewing machine, whose one-step buttonhole is usually a smooth job. There was some thread bunching on at least two of the buttonholes, which led me to wrangle the fabric from under the foot and push the fabric along. One buttonhole got placed wrong for reasons that escape me. It took some unpicking and creative work with satin stitch to rescue it. It helps that the fabric is black.

Back to the roundup:

On May 19 I wore the new Beignet skirt with finally a different Scout tee (in a lovely Cotton and Steel rayon). And on May 20 I finished McCall’s 6885 and put it on as soon as it was done and pressed. It was sewn concurrently with the skirt — something I do very rarely.

This dress is my second #sewtogetherforsummer project and an ode to shopping the stash. I had a big remnant of that cotton sateen print left since having to buy extra for the first dress I made from it. The gray fabric was a remnant left from this dress.

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It would have been a perfect combination if I hadn’t underestimated the stiffness of that tightly woven linen. The dirty secret of this dress is that I can’t button the collar stand: it’s too stiff and the buttonhole doesn’t have enough flexibility. I think I’ll live with that but I’d prefer to avoid it in the future…

This pattern has received some love online. And it’s pretty good but do I have some reservations. Some of them fall into the category “I don’t know if it’s me or the pattern.”

First in that category: the button placket. The overlap is way longer than the underlap and I don’t know what other purpose it served beyond annoying me. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the instructions but I guess you’re supposed to just attach that bottom floppy part to the front of the dress with a mere two horizontal seams and just let it flop about?… Hell no. I just stitched it down around the arrow part… which came out uneven! (Insert your favorite swear word here.) Maybe it’s me, I don’t know…

So I guess it’s just the placket that’s in that category, but that’s not the end of my dislikes.

At the top of my list is the damn tall and narrow sleeve cap.

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I couldn’t help myself. I hate that slim sleeve cap so much.

Whenever I see this sleeve cap shape I want to run screaming. I don’t know who is able to wear these comfortably. I definitely can’t: they turn things into the opposite of secret pajamas. A secret straightjacket.

Rather than spend time altering the sleeve cap I just Frankenpatterned the modified sleeve cap from the dress that taught me so much. It went in woderfully, with minimal easing.

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Here’s a detail I like: the buttoned tab that keeps the rolled sleeves in place.

Apart from that: No pockets, so I added some at the side seams. The collar was really big so I shaved off a centimeter. I moved the waist ties up about an inch — they fell too low according to the pattern, at least on me. I added my usual 3/4″ to the bottom of the armhole on the back piece and did my usual forward-shoulder adjustment and square shoulder adjustment. Not sure how I feel about the shirt-tail hem. I think I’d opt for a straight hem next time.

On the upside: I didn’t need an FBA. The fit in the bust is fine. The fit in the hips is okay, too, though if I make this again I might grade up to the next size.

Last day of my roundup: May 21 and some ’90s inspiration with an Adelaide dress over a black tee (RTW, this one).

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So moving on to the last full week of Me-Made May. This one may be my last blog roundup because I’m traveling at the end of the month and will be offline in early June. I plan on wearing me-made clothes but I know I will be away from the blog and IG for a while, so most likely won’t document any of that. And apologies in advance for the silence.

How is Me-Made May going for you? Are you in the no-repeats camp or, like me, going with whatever calls to you?

shirt story. chapter two: I finally made one!

It certainly took me long enough to get there! Lots of fretting, fitting, and pattern alterations. Here it is:

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Here at the House of Shiny Door Knobs we have nowhere to pose where the clothes could be the proper focus.

Fresh off the happy wave of the #sewtogetherforsummer shirt dress, this is McCall’s 7387 — a pattern I bought on impulse, started fitting, realized it had some features I wasn’t crazy about, and then discarded.

I’m writing this post after realizing that you can’t keep the momentum going forever. It turns out that trying to quickly prepare another shirt pattern after a long day at work is not the best evening plan. Luckily, I stopped myself before fabric scissors came into play. Oh, wonderful wave of shirt-sewing mojo, let me do your beauty justice by giving this shirt a proper write-up.

I could call this a blouse, I guess, but I prefer “shirt” because I really like the variations on menswear in women’s patterns. You can mix and match elements and not be afraid of David Page Coffin criticizing you in your dreams. Or so I’m hoping.

Construction details aside, my primary concern is always fit. I often see photos of tissue-paper pattern pieces pinned neatly to freshly cut fabric on Instagram and I wonder — sometimes with a bit of envy — how many of you out there have the luxury of getting a good fit “straight out of the envelope.” Not me. I’ve been working pretty hard over the years on not blaming it all on my body and how it fits or doesn’t fit into some sort of “standards.” So, to be honest, what really bugs me is how much time fitting and alterations can take. Not that much time left for sewing in the end!

This one took a while from first muslin to completion. For a long time we weren’t talking because I wasn’t sure I could figure out the alterations and hack it to get the design details I wanted.

I got it at a pattern sale, where the siren song of $1 or $1.99 always lures me. I didn’t notice just how deep that back pleat was or that there wasn’t a collar stand.

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No collar stand. Even after digging through the pattern envelope for a long time. It turns out reading the pattern contents might save you some time!

I really hated the back pleat when I made up the first muslin. It felt like a heavy tail sitting atop my derriere, and the curve of the pattern piece gave it unnecessary length that made it pile up on said derriere. Not a cool look. It was the first thing I knew I needed to do away with when I eventually picked up this pattern again.

It’s the kimono sleeves that made me reach for it. And fabric leftovers that didn’t add up to much on their own but really got me fired up about this project once I realized how I could put them together.


It did take some creative cutting, some plans changed along the way. The main fabric was leftover chambray from the circle skirt I made as one of my first sewing projects (you can see a photo of it here). The button placket got integrated into the fronts. I could have turned it the other way around and it would look like intended. (But I didn’t because I thought, “why not go in the opposite direction and just let it look like the continuous piece that it is?”)

I cut out the inner yoke from the last precious bits of the Cotton and Steel print from my first dress. For the outer collar and cuffs I used linen/rayon left remnants from these pants. And because the yoke and back piece were both cut out in the chambray, I decided to set them apart with some flat black piping.

I wanted slightly feminine buttons to balance out the crispness of the fabrics. And that’s that when it came to style choices. I really felt steered by the fabrics on this one and quite enjoyed the limitations of the yardage in each. I don’t know if I could have stumbled on this combination otherwise.

I’ll follow up with some notes on fit alterations.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What are you working on?

simplify

Burda Easy blew my mind. (Images from burdastyle.de)

That’s my one sewing “resolution” for 2017. If the result is less than appealing, my excuse will be that Burda made me do it. Because the F/W 2016 issue of Burda Easy is what got the little cogs turning for me.

I noticed that I seem to operate according to an implicit rule that goes something like this: “why simplify when you can overcomplicate?” As you can guess, I never described it to myself in this way until began to realize I have a growing fabric stash and lots of remaining wardrobe gaps.

The issue is not sewing because I’ve convinced myself that I should save fabric for an appropriately ambitious project. Given the remaining gaps in my wardrobe,* it’s become clear to me that I need to balance the more ambitious plans with some simple garments that will get worn on a regular basis.

Enter Burda Easy. Doctor T has a great post about this issue if you want to know more about the designs and see more garment photos. Seeing the clothes in motion was what did it for me. Now, not all of these fit my life and style preferences: the huge vest and coat, and that oversize sweater would both make me look enormous and like I’m drowning in fabric. But a lot of them look really good.

The biggest suprise is how much I’m digging that tunic. It essentially conforms to Anna of the Paunnet blog’s definiton of Burda cutting corners design-wise: “rectangles by Burda” (see here). And yet I want to wear these rectangles. Obviously not now, not in the depths of frozen hell, but I think they will be close to dreamy when the world boils around us mid-July.

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More rectangles for me! Photo from Burda Easy F/W 2016.

But seriously now, here’s the strategy I want to try out this year: for every ambitious project (pants! shirts!) try to add some simple clothes, especially to wear around the house. So more knit tops; ideally, some decent-looking pants to wear around the house (maybe the ones from Burda to replace the ancient worn-out pair of cords I’m reaching for all the time), more shift dresses maybe…

Which brings me to strategy #2:

re-use already fitted and adjusted patterns as much as possible. Not that I haven’t been doing this, but I’ve mostly done it out of resignation when I got fed up with trying to fit a pattern that was turning out to be clearly not suited to my body shape. Funnily enough, given all the Burda inspiration in this post, the Burda bodice is pretty far from my shape (as I discovered when making this dress), so I might hack the Colette Laurel to get something similar to this one:

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Image source: burdastyle.com.

Another simple Burda project I have my eye on is this sweater:

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Pattern and more photos available here.

I might have some leftover knit fabric that would be great for this.

What about you? Any easy sewing plans you’re looking forward to? And how do you stand on New Year resolutions?

*Nothing helps you realize things as clearly as waking up in a harsh winter with one pair of pants remaining wearable in the weather conditions. That’s how you know you’ve been goofing up.