Friday, August 2, 2013

One In Every Category

A friend sent me the most interesting email yesterday in response to Wednesday's posting. It was full of tough questions, the kind I love to ponder, and I'm sure she won't mind me sharing a few of the... LOL... tougher ones.

She wrote... Why is consistency important?  Shouldn't your clothes reflect your experimental nature? Do you want to communicate that you are put together or that you are looking for answers?   Do you want your clothes to express "this is the sort of person I am in general" or "this is how I'm feeling today"?

Thinking about those questions, I realized that what I consistently want to express is the authentic me. The feeling of belonging in my own clothes. The comfort of moving about with clothing that is a second skin not a layer that's awkward and emotionally itchy. Not every outfit, not every garment, feels authentic and that's part of the journey. Figuring out authenticity.

Consistency is important to me in terms of my clothes feeling like me but I don't want to feel like I'm wearing a formula or a uniform. I want my clothes to speak for me, to represent who I am and what's fun, unique, and personal about me - my "voice". Clothes are a canvas; they are brush strokes. They are colors and textures and line and all the other elements of design combined with our own unique shape and preferences. I find that mix fascinating in myself and others.

Then she asked... Shouldn't your clothes reflect your experimental nature? Do you want to communicate that you are put together or that you are looking for answers? Do you want your  clothes to express "this is the sort of person I am in general" or "this is how I'm feeling today"?

What I sew and what I wear are different. Sewing is not only because I enjoy the actual process of sewing and the technical challenge but it's an experiment to find what works in terms of fit and flatter and expression of self. What I actually wear - of the garments I sew - illustrates those answers.

Not all experiments will get worn because even though many of the elements are correct, the results don't always feel authentic. There's something not quite right. And that's the nature of experimenting. It's the search to find answers that work and then to utilize those answers. When I create something that doesn't feel authentic, it may get worn once or twice while I try it on to see if it's going to feel right. If it doesn't, it gets edited out quickly.

I don't want to look like I didn't have a clue how to get dressed that morning so in that sense I want to look put together however, I'd like my look to have drama and edginess as opposed to being conservative or traditional or anything that feels boring to me. I played it safe for years and safe is easy. It doesn't take much effort however... it's not nearly as much fun... or as challenging... or as experimental... as this journey to dressing authentically. There's no puzzle to figure out and I like puzzles which is good because I'm enjoying the puzzle and the challenge of this endless search for clothing that says this is me in terms of representing my spirit, personality, and character even as I know that the me I want those garments to identify is always changing. It seems that it's that experimental nature - the expression and evolution of self - that needs to come out.

It was that last thought that I pondered all day - how is my quest for knowledge and my desire to learn and my experimental nature being expressed in my clothing? Don't get me wrong. I'm not unhappy with how I'm dressed. Over the last few years, through trial and error, I've developed a core wardrobe that works and works well together and a collection of interesting accessories to go along with. What I'm working on now is more - more quantity, more quality, more expression of self, a little less safe, and a lot more fun.

If you've been following the comments, Steph and I have been having an interesting discussion about wardrobe planning. It's a passionate subject for both of us only she's definitely the guru of wardrobe planning. I'm in awe. I do believe that part of playing and experimenting is starting with the core wardrobe Steph is talking about using neutrals and key garments and then adding the playful moments. I mention wanting to have enough quantity and quality in my wardrobe - to do more playing.

An example I used in my reply to Steph is jeans and a t-shirt which was - for many years - when I was busy with other things - my "uniform". I had a couple pairs of the same jeans, whichever ones I could find in RTW that fit me the best, a half dozen or so of the same black t-shirt, whichever style Costco was selling that year, and several colorful cardigans to alternate, and that was it. There may have been one or two other items but basically this was my uniform and it worked for that period of time in my life. And now it doesn't.

Now, I have the desire, the time, and the energy to take my wardrobe in different directions. Since I've started sewing fashions full time again, I've identified the style lines I prefer and have developed a T & T t-shirt pattern that works BUT... I don't want just one pair of jeans and a few black t-shirts to go with. I want a collection of jeans that aren't identical and several different styles and shapes of knit tops to go with that provide variety and highlight different aspects of my personality and voice. Does that make sense?

I'm not searching for the answer any more. I've identified a lot of what works and as I said, I'm not unhappy with my wardrobe. What I'm doing now is several things at once - particularly playing and experimenting - which isn't necessarily conducive to having an extensive wardrobe. And that's okay. These questions were a reminder to continue to play and to do that work. It's a journey. We don't have to identify every answer so closely that it becomes confining. We can throw things together, mix it up, play paper dolls with our own body in our own wardrobe, and see what happens.

When I cleaned the pattern stash yesterday, I kept all the patterns. I thought about choosing one pattern to sew in each category but that seemed too planned. Instead, I looked at the line drawings, thought about what I wanted to experiment with and about what I needed more of in my wardrobe and chose the ones shown to think about. As you'll read, they're a mix of experimenting, working with what I know, challenge, and learning - all the parts of me. They are... in order....

Vogue 1297 - What I love about this dress is the contrast between the inner shaping and the outer "wings". There are several interesting variations on PatternReview. I want to be aware of where the droop of the wings hits the body. Some proportions are more flattering than others. There's an opportunity to play with line, direction, and detail on what seems like a simple structure. Simple can be hard to do. There's no place to hide. I like that in textile work and I see a similar tension with this dress. 

Vogue 1333 - This skirt pattern calls for a moderate stretch knit. Sham's made it in a woven which I think is a more interesting challenge. To get the right woven. One that's light enough and drapey enough to flow over the body but still crispy enough to show off the pleats. With the two layers, there's again an opportunity to play with line, design, visual texture, and varying prints.

McCall's 6286 - Normally, I avoid raglan sleeves as they tend to narrow my already narrow shoulders. The collar on this pattern adds a widening element that appears to balance that aspect. I wonder if I can successfully interpret it and at the same time, I'd like to use a knit fabric to attempt to create a buttoned blouse that is soft, flowing, and non-restrictive in the way that I typically find blouses. Can I make a blouse I would actually wear? Can I make it using lines I normally avoid?

Vogue 8767 - I'm not a jacket person. I prefer cardigans. In a knit, would this jacket be more cardigan-like or more jacket-like? Would I wear it? Would it feel me or too confining?

OOP Vogue 1113 - This Lynn Mizono jacket has some interesting angles and junctures. It's a lot more volume than I normally wear however, because it sits at the waist with an asymmetrical hemline, it may be possible for me to wear. I would still have a waist. After seeing Gayle's version of another of Lynn's patterns, the challenge is how to soften the lines while maintaining enough supporting structure.

OOP Vogue 8397 - A year ago at Design Outside The Lines 2012, one of the women wore these pants in a black ponte. They were GORGEOUS and I have wanted my very own pair ever since. I keep putting off sewing them until my fluctuating weight stops fluctuating only - LOL - I might die waiting. I should get to these pants. I can test the pattern, wear them now, and adjust for fluctuations when I make them again because I have a feeling I'll wear these often. I have similar pants that I absolutely love.

Six patterns. Six opportunities to play. Did you find a pattern you want to play with? I'd love to see it.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - books on allergies, sensitivities, and solutions. I'm thankful to have the input of others who have gone before me and of different views on treatment so I can find a way that works for me, one that I can maintain.


  1. Hi Myrna:
    Your friend has some great questions! I too often take the safe road - my "uniform" for teaching has spread into my whole life. But it is comfortable... I need to see what I can do to push myself a little. Haven't done much sewing - after the bridesmaid sewing just didn't feel it. Today I'm cleaning so hoping to spend part of the weekend at the sewing machine. I'll send pictures!
    Love the "flap" dress. Years ago Threads magazine had directions for "winged skirts". I made 2 of them (still have them actually). Love wearing them as they are super neat, elastic waists and have room for my big steps. Look like a wrap skirt but aren't. Here's a link
    I know (back then) I followed the directions and had no problem.... I prefer skirts over dresses for day to day (although I often reach for dresses for "events")...must think on that. Well, I'll have some thinking time while I do floors and bathrooms today.
    Hope your health improves! Have a good day!

    1. For me, it's a yearning. I don't want to be safe and yet safe is easy.

      Cleaning often moves me to the next stage and sometimes I just have to start something and before I know it, I'm emerged.

      I'll check out that link. Thanks.

  2. What makes sense to me is that a) you are a fabric artist, therefore, b) your experimentation will involve fabric.

    I know---big DUH. But bear with me. A friend of mine is a well-known painter. She has developed her own uniform (a big shirt/duster over pants). That's what she wears, in several variations, depending on the season and her need for color (she mostly wears black). She's sewed them herself, and has embellished some of them, but the bulk of her creative energy goes into painting. (Didn't Georgia O'Keefe mostly wear white and black in her later years?)

    I'm in the process of reviving my wardrobe, and I find myself drawn to a bit of a uniform in terms of colors and shapes. But that makes sense--I'm a writer and editor, and the bulk of my creative energy goes to those efforts. It's not that I don't love experimentation in sewing. Believe me, I do! But I express my personality on the page more than I do with what I wear.

    Once again....each to her own!

    Glad you're finding all the books useful. It's an intriguing line of research.

    1. LOL - it is duh from on perspective and I totally get it from another. In the years that I've been making less textile art I've been putting my artistic demand on my clothing.

      So - you are a writer that sews and you prefer to write and edit more than you like to sew ? ? ? That combination of sewing and writing intrigues me because the two are pretty near to equal for me. When I first started writing, I didn't expect to enjoy it so much. Some days I can't tell which I love more. Blogging each weekday has become a real part of my creative flow. I'm always thinking. If I'm not sewing in my head while doing something else, I'm often writing.

    2. Yep, I think it's fair to describe me as a writer who sews/gardens/cooks. (And at one time, I studied music fairly seriously.) Writing comes first; the others are important but secondary creative outlets.

      I am fascinated by your comment below about predominant and secondary characteristics. The advice to not worry too much about it all was truly excellent!

  3. Yes, it makes sense. It sounds like you don't want to be limited to one silhouette. This is fine because your signature is not the silhouette but the artistic details. I think that the difference between a uniform and a signature is that a uniform feels constricting somehow, or not quite right, whereas a signature feels perfect because it's you. Does that make sense? Or only in my head?

    Very interesting conversation on the other post, btw. I didn't get to comment when you posted it because my iPad never lets me. I can only comment when I'm on the laptop.

    1. OH... that's very interesting... that you see my signature as the artistic details. I'm definitely going to think about/focus on that. Yes, the thought of any kind of uniform does feel constricting while as adding details to lines that work sounds like limitless possibilities. Thanks.

      I've been debating a tablet versus a laptop because I need to replace both my eReader and my very old, very heavy laptop and thought I might be able to combine them into one unit I used more frequently. I would want to be able to blog including pictures and comment on blogs from whatever system I was using so it seems I may need both.

    2. As someone who has both (tablet and laptop) in my family I find I love the tablet for reading and surfing but really prefer typing/writing/commenting on the laptop. I just find the keyboard some much easier to use. However, there is available a laptop/tablet hybrid that connects to a keyboard (like a laptop) but has a touch screen and can separate to work like a laptop. I think when my desktop dinosaur finally poops out I might go with something like that. More and more of my school/report card work is using an online system, so something like a tablet would work, but for ease of typing, a keyboard (for me) is the way to go.

    3. Thanks Jodie. I'll keep that in mind. I'm reluctant to spend a lot on a laptop because I only use it when I'm travelling and I only travel a few times a year. The only things wrong with the one I have now is it's slower than molasses and really heavy except anything I buy will become outdated too because I don't have a need for one on a regular basis. It's an interesting dilemma. I prefer a keyboard as well.

  4. oh, very thought provoking questions from your friend indeed! and goodness, "It's a passionate subject for both of us only she's definitely the guru of wardrobe planning. I'm in awe." i am mortified - with a big goofy grin on my mug :) you are quite kind, and also correct - i am very passionate about this topic! Fantastic questions from your friend, the kind that can really lead to breakthrus and new viewpoints. Insightful lady!

    And Alexandra's observation on your signature being the artistic details matches up quite well with my outfit checklist. On the whole your outfits keep most of the elements toned down and in the background: darker, muted colors; low contrast; flattering but not dramatic or edgy silhouettes; not a huge amount of textural contrast or style references BUT lots and lots of details: buttons, topstitching, special edgings, trims, pleats, and so on. Plus your statement accessories.

    "Yes, the thought of any kind of uniform does feel constricting while as adding details to lines that work sounds like limitless possibilities. Thanks." yay! there's a million different ways to work your closet, the key is to find what it is for YOU. Then it feels so freeing! Because you see the possibilities.

    And your style trajectory clicked for me when you were talking about doing the tee/jeans/cardi uniform for years, then getting your "jeans and tee" TNT's under your belt, and now wanting to expand out from there. It seems to me that you've been living on 'cake' or 'veggies' wardrobe-wise for years and now you want to expand your 'cake' but add some 'frosting' in there too! Time for 'dessert'!

    This of course is another wardrobe planning concept - the idea that you need a certain amount of both cake (veggies - the core wardrobe pices) and frosting (dessert - special stand out pieces that add panache and individuality) to create a truly workable wardrobe. A real exotic/dramatic type may only need some nude bras and panties and a few solid colored tights on the cake side of her wardrobe, but those elements can be crucial to making all that frosting show to best advantage. At the other extreme, all cake can get boring and even be detrimental in social situations - you can look stodgy, boring, or clueless if you NEVER dress to the occasion.


  5. cont'd.

    So Myrna, it sounds like minimalist you went all cake for years when that made sense, and now that you're interested in frosting of course it makes sense for this to be a very experimental time as it's all pretty new to you. Actually the first couple of years of my blog were a pretty experimental phase for me, quite deliberately. I really wanted to take my style to the 'grown up me' level, and get out of my previous kind of slap dash habits. I used a lot of less expensive and donated fabrics, and bought patterns only on sale.

    But then i got to a point where things clicked, and i had the confidence to spend $75 on fabric for a dress (once! as a splurge on my birthday! usually it's more like half that) and also to spend more time and care on making garments. And, interestingly enough, now that i look at clothing very largely from the pragmatic side i find my garments end up *more* creative than when i sewed more as a creative outlet.

    but then i'm just contrary.

    There's a LOT of writers at the YouLookFab forum, amateur and pro, there was a long thread on it a year or so ago. Poets to tech writers. Obviously i don't have a problem with writing myself ;) And i'm so glad you're making those Marcy pants - they will look killer on you, and i can live thru you vicariously as i do not have that pattern (one of the tragedies of my life. The other tragedy is how my husband will moan and groan on about them if i ever have the good fortune of wearing a pair..........heehee!)

    Myrna, thank you for graciously hostessing this very interesting conversation!!! I so love talking with people about where they are in their closets, everybody is different in their approach and where they are in their journey. I always learn So Much, and it's revealing of personality in a fun way. Happy Day All! steph

    1. Other than a period in my early twenties when I was experimenting with sewing and fashion - and now again these past few years - I've always had a cake wardrobe. While frosting sounds yummy, it's also harder to frost than one would imagined if one has limited frosting experience.

      I was intrigued a few years ago when I took a personality test and came out predominate in one category and even in two others. When I discussed it with the facilitator, she asked me if I'd had an event in my life that changed me dramatically and I had. She said the predominate category was me and that one of the other two was natural and the other was learned and not to try and figure it out because I'd turn myself inside out. Every once in a while when something like this comes up, I wonder which part of me would have been more "frosted" if things were not as things were. There's a whole conversation just in that thought but of course it's an unexplored path because what is, is.

      It's fun to be making these changes as a "mature" adult with so many learning curves behind me and less inhibitions. I know what you mean about getting to a point where things "clicked". That level of comfortableness has made it possible for me to now invest in the creative elements knowing they'll (almost always but not guaranteed) work out.

      Coincidentally, I started working on Monday's postings and it has elements of this conversation. I also started on the Marcy pants using a woven check, cotton, crisp but not too heavy. I'm all done except for the waist casing and the choices I made worked out really well. Too fun. More on Monday.

  6. Myrna, i so love reading your blog post ;) How you prevoke thought! I am only just learning how to 'fit' my sewing experiments, so i am a long way behind :( But i am looking forward to being as brave with my wardrobe as you

    1. The fit journey can fill like one step forward two steps back for a while and then suddenly, it comes together. Keep going. It's worth it. LOL - thanks for thinking I'm brave. That's encouraging.

  7. Predominant - no such word as "predominate".

    1. Ah well... LOL - the spelling is definitely more important than the point. Thanks. I'll fix that.

    2. I did mean the other word but FYI - predominate is a word and on the right track

      pre·dom·i·nate (pr-dm-nt)
      v. pre·dom·i·nat·ed, pre·dom·i·nat·ing, pre·dom·i·nates

      1. To have or gain controlling power or influence; prevail: Good predominates over evil in many literary works.

      2. To be of or have greater quantity or importance; preponderate: French-speaking people predominate in Quebec.

    3. Wow, Myrna, how gracious you are! I'd have been tempted to just hit delete. And, LOL, I would have looked it up too.


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