Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Without Head Or Heels

It took six hours yesterday to clean both bathrooms and our bedroom which sounds like a tremendous amount of time but I was working steadily. It's just that I went the deep route. In the bathrooms, I took everything out of the cabinets and washed them inside and out and did the floors and the baseboards.

In our bedroom, I washed all the bedding from mattress protector, to sheets, to quilt, to pillows and moved the furniture around to vacuum and wash the floors... and walls. I can't remember the last time I washed walls. It must be at least thirty years ago. VBG - we usually move and paint only the walls were dusty... from when the floors went in... over a year ago... just in case you think I'm some kind of Suzy Homemaker... which I'm not.

After the first wall, I realized it'd be better to vacuum them first. Dust and water equals a yucky, wet mess too high to reach. I washed from bottom to top with a wet cloth over a Swiffer. I read about this bottom to top method in a magazine way back when magazines talked about things like spring cleaning. Using a Swiffer is a trick I learned from some friends when they were getting ready to paint. Both worked great. No runs and drips. I did the baseboards with a toothbrush and used a steam mop on the floors. I'm past the hands and knees stage - LOL. I even vacuumed the mattress and polished my husband's chandelier.

The dress is finished. By the time I was done cleaning, I wasn't looking too pretty so you're getting the without head or heels version. It looks better in person. It seems like I'm saying that a lot lately so either I'm delusional or need better photography. I left the hem as is and took the side seams in an inch at the waist tapered to the underarm and the hip. It's feels great on. I'll wait to see what I think about the hem when I'm wearing shoes and jewelry and my hair is done.

When I started this dress, I had all sorts of ideas for making it more creative like a frill at the hem and visible lace sewn to the lining and embellishments at the neckline and... and... and... except the more I worked on it, the simpler it became.

At the same time, I started re-reading Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo's book Nothing To Wear and I've had some new ah ha moments. Isn't it great how every time you read a book you get something different out of it? Love that. The last time I did the style quiz in this book, I was predominately avant-garde with a minor in chic. This time, they were exactly even. Here are the descriptions from page 37:

Chic: This style is defined by a powerful look and sharp lines that seem to come together in an effortless way. It is often monochromatic and combined with bold accessories.

Avant-garde: This is an ultramodern style that uses fashion as an extension of the wearer's creativity. It often seeks to make a dramatic statement. Typically, the foundation for this wardrobe is black.

For a really long time - like twenty years - I wore a black t-shirt with jeans and bold accessories - every day - throwing on a colorful cardigan if needed. That was my work-from-home uniform and it's still the predominant look I wear now. Back then, next to the jeans and the t-shirts in my closet would be one occasion type outfits that I'd spend a lot of time putting together for weddings, reunions, or Christmas parties. They were typically more edgy. I had fancy and I had jeans and black t-shirts.

When I started sewing fashions again - only three and half years ago - I was so excited to finally be able to sew clothes that would fit and to escape the uniform and move in new and bold directions. Guess what? I've barely budged and the big ah ha reading through the book this time is why. I haven't budged because I'm already wearing my fashion personality. I may need to spice it up but the formula is exactly right. That's also why my stash and my wardrobe are predominately monochromatic and why...

... while I might absolutely love all the details that Gwen put into her version of Vogue 8876 at Sew Expo... it's not me. Whenever I try to sew and wear something like this, it feels like playing dress-up. I'm not anywhere near comfortable in a dress like this as I am in a simple, well cut, well fitted, black dress with an eccentric piece of jewelry. That's a huge awareness, one that would allow me to make my version of the same dress with less color contrast and - most likely - a feature jewelry piece.

Or I could sew the dress with texture and line like the OOP Vogue 1284 skirt made in March. The bow is a little out there - it gets a few looks - and so what. I'm okay with that. I love this skirt and wear it frequently. The last time was to my daughter's church. She - my daughter - wasn't all that impressed but during the meet and greet, the woman behind me leaned forward and said love your skirt. I wore it with grey boots, a paisley printed knit shirt, and a solid blue necklace that is exactly the same shade - all indicative of my fashion personality. I've realized the role that statement necklaces play in my wardrobe and why I enjoy them so much.

A constant style is a consistent thread that weaves through your life but is "tweaked" as you evolve. Having a constant style allows you to be more focused and sure in your way of dressing.
- page 50

IF... you pay attention to your constant style and stop trying to reinvent the wheel or be someone else and instead live into your own style and work to develop it to the best of your ability. The purple/black dress works for me because it's medium to dark and monochromatic. It didn't need more embellishment because there's already enough visual texture for my fashion personality. I like the clean lines of the style, the flattering fit, the texture of the lace, and the narrow range of colors. Instead of adding more embellishment, I'll focus on the accessories to pull it all together and create a look.

Each of us possess an identity and an image. Our identity is who we are - our soul, our spirit, our personality. Our image is what we project - ourselves as others see us. One of the reasons you can feel lost or impatient in attempting to create your look is that you've lost touch with who you want the world to see. To ensure great style, there must be a connectedness between identity and image - a clear alignment between the two. Very often there is a mismatch, or disconnect, between these elements that can lead to fashion frustration. Projecting an image of ourselves that doesn't express who we are is always confusing, difficult, and exhausting. It can make us feel as if we're putting on a costume or assuming a role, forcing us to act like someone we're not
. - page 2

It's interesting - in that abstract, wish I'd figured this out a whole lot faster, kind of way - that when I thought I wasn't dressing at all - jeans and a black t-shirt - I was actually dressing more in my style than I have been for the past three years. Perhaps I've been trying to be someone else, someone I thought I was before, in another time, in another life. I've evolved - subconsciously while doing other things - and didn't recognize that evolution for what it was. It sounds so simple. It even sounds familiar. I think we circle through these ideas a few times before the click that brings it all together. I'm excited to move forward with this information and thankful that I haven't gone out and bought a lot of wild prints for my stash. What's there is a great base. The avant-garde me will still have her colorful moments while the Chic me is going to embrace her love of the monochromatic even more and especially black.

One of the workshops I used to teach was called Self Expressions. It was about creating independent textile art. My goal as the instructor was to give the students the emotional freedom to move away from patterns and traditional work into self directed work. A discussion about our style and finding our voice always came up. We learn to do the work by doing the work and through that same process, our style emerges - piece by piece - expression by expression. Our style is always with us. By creating, we are giving it voice and learning to listen to and respect that voice.

The piece above is called Lines 4. It was made near the end of my career and sold to a Canadian collector, in part - I think - because of its authenticity. The piece clearly exemplifies my style. That consistent thread that Jesse and Joe are talking about with fashion extends into all areas of life from how we decorate our homes, to how we arrange our landscaping, to how we create art. Lines 4 is simple and simple is hard to do. There's no place to hide. Simple is also often overlooked. Simple is Avant-garde Chic. Simple is a powerful look and sharp lines that seem to come together in an effortless way but actually take a considerable amount of work to get the balance just right.

Lines 4 is one of a series created while I was studying how to work with tension between two focal points of near equal value, an aspect that became a signature element of my work. Notice how your eye moves between the blue boxes and the red lines. That's a tension that demands attention. I feel like I've made a significant discovery through re-reading Nothing To Wear and that because of that discovery I can now move on with confidence and begin working on how to incorporate this same kind of tension into fashion and a look that gives my fashion personality a stronger voice and provides a greater connect between my identity and my image.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - for a home to clean, the water and supplies to clean it with, and the ability to do so


  1. The dress looks really good on you. Good color and the post before on how you handled the neckline was interesting. I may have to dust off my copy of "Nothing to Wear now"!

    1. Thank you.

      I like the way Staging Your Comeback deals with women over 45 and how Nothing To Wear approaches clothing. Perhaps that's the difference. The author of Staging is a hair stylist/cosmetologist while the authors of Nothing are focused on fashion. LOL - buy both.

  2. Can I have that skirt? No?? :)

    I love this blog post. Love it.

    1. LOL - you can't have the skirt but you can certainly make it. There's a post a few months back. Let me know if you can't find it. I eliminated the original seam allowances and sewed it smaller and then added tucks and darts to take the waist in even more. Mine is a variation on the original. The fabric is very light weight.

    2. I found it already! Thank you! :)

  3. This post really resonated with me. Like you I started sewing partly out of frustration with my "uniform": fitted T, wide-leg pants, cardigan. I spent several years sewing fitted wool jackets and dresses before realizing that what I actually wear is not too dissimilar from my original uniform. I like that sewing allows my to branch out and try new variations: woven T's for instance, instead of knits, or prints instead of solids. But best of all is getting to explore the same sorts of things I do in "flat" art: color, value, texture, and proportion, but now in 3D and with the challenge of making combinations that are practical and functional. Over the next several months I want to challenge myself to play with blouses— woven t-shirts really— and also to try to come up with cardigan designs. I figure I will start with a hoodie which is absolutely the most comfortable item of clothing for me (and the most worn) and see where I go from there. I absolutely feel that our style is always with us and that if we just continue to make things it will emerge of its own accord.

    1. And isn't it both peaceful and incredibly energizing to realize that you are already on the right track and that you have what it takes, you just need to do the work. I'm darn near vibrating. I feel like I've arrived at some clear direction and things to focus on. YES YES ! ! ! Can't wait to see what you make.

  4. I just love your blog, especially on days like today when there's so many thoughts that I want to write down to meditate over. Thank you thank you thank you.

    Joyce in WI

    1. LOL - thanks for letting me know. I'm glad what I learned resonated with you too.

  5. Aren't revelations like this wonderful to have/ Realizing what kinds of things I really enjoy wearing makes my sewing so much more fun. I wear almost everything I make now on a regular basis.

    1. Yes - they are wonderful. I love the way they settle some things and I hope those things stay settled because I seem to circle through a concept a few times before I fully grasp it. Your comment about wearing everything you make now is very encouraging. Thank you.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.