Friday, February 14, 2014

It Might Not And So What

The cape is hung up in the closet ready to go. Thanks for all the wonderful compliments. I'll get a picture of me wearing it as soon as possible although that always seems to take far longer than I'd like... especially an outdoor shot. It's definitely time to find a remote for my camera and figure out how to smile pretty without feeling self-conscious in public. Maybe my barista could take it - LOL - but not today. It is snowing like crazy outside. Something warmer will be necessary.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how I sew. I've given up on the sewing with a plan type projects because they never seem to happen and I've become increasingly cautious about saying I'm going to explore this or that new technique, series, or way of working because it never goes quite the way I imagined.

Why do I make the things I make? Most often, it's via the loudest tickle, the thing that is dancing and waving and hopping up and down and saying make me. It may fit into one of the plans I was thinking about but the projects are not consecutive the way I'd imagined and I think that's just fine.

Right now, the loudest tickle is something to wear to Sew Expo. I've settled on a dress. The OOP pattern above is Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8637. I've been wanting to sew it for YEARS... and I haven't... and isn't that so often the case ? ? ? The aspect I love the most about this pattern is the hemline. The points are great only I've sewn a lot of pointed patterns lately and I'm not in the mood for another one so I'm taking the soft hemline of this skirt and adding it to...

... my T & T favourite, Katherine Tilton's Vogue 8691. I've played with this pattern for so long that I'm not sure Katherine would even recognize my variations as originating with her however... it does AMAZING things for my figure... minus the ruffle that is. As you can see, the top has princess lines and the skirt does not so....

... I'm also incorporating some of the seams and shaping from Marcy's Vogue 8499. The princess seams in the front lined up fabulously and in the back, I'm inventing new lines. What will I end up with? I have no idea. Will it look good on me? We'll see.

More than anything else, this compilation of patterns is an exploration of a possibility and the answer to a tickle however... as the pictures of my Koos skirt show... sometimes a garment that feels good on you might not necessarily look good on you. It was a shock to see because I feel amazing when I wear that skirt - which I'm not wearing anymore now that I see how un-amazing I actually do look - but, obviously, there is a happy balance to be discovered between those two things. How do I make a garment that feels good emotionally - as in this feels flirty and fun and just like me - look good physically and how do I make a garment that looks good physically - as in it flatters my figure - feel good emotionally?

SUCH an interesting question. The answer is not all about the fabric or even the style. Sometimes, it's the sizing or the styling or the color or the mood we're in or the accessories we put it all together with which leads me to another conversation, one where Myrna wades in where perhaps Myrna shouldn't, BUT... this really struck me and it's my opinion and I'm entitled to it so here goes.

Several years ago, I wrote a posting about a pattern of Sandra Betzina's that was based on a shirt by a Canadian designer. At that time, I was upset that she had copied the shirt and made it into a pattern without giving credit to the designer. I have since learned that not only is this common practice, there is in fact no copyright protection on clothing. I have a high level of respect for Sandra Betzina and was glad to learn that neither she nor any of the other pattern designers I know who are following a similar practice are "stealing".

I have an equally high level of respect for Pati Palmer. She has had a long and solid career and several of her books - Fit For Real People and Pants for Real People - are on my must have list. If my house burned down, I'd replace them immediately and I recommend them to any new sewist. The workshops I've taken with Pati have been phenomenal and taught me a tremendous amount. Palmer Pletsch also published Looking Good by Nancy Nix-Rice and this book is also on my must have list. I've heard it ridiculed for the outdated pictures. Let me just say that it's the information you're buying. Pictures are outdated the minute they are taken however....

... pictures can also say interesting things that are perhaps not what you meant to say. In the recent advertisement for Nancy's new book - Looking Good Everyday - my eye was caught by the picture above. Andrea appears to be wearing Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8499 skirt in the before picture and that's an interesting choice. The message I get is that the skirt is frumpy and...

... when such a recognizable pattern is chosen...

... that message has an overtone that could be interpreted as being applied to the designer. I'm not saying that's what happened. I have no idea if this is an accidental or a deliberate message. For all I know, these women could be the best of friends but that's not the message I'm getting and this particular image really impacted me - in part because this is one of my favourite skirts, in part because I have a high level of respect for the designer, and in part because sewing is a big business with a small pond.

Having been in the small pond of another big business, I know that extra care should be taken to play nicely. The before/after example struck me as a version of if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. I wondered - and perhaps that's just me - if there was some kind of subtext going on and the fact that I wondered means someone should have thought this through just a little better because that's not good marketing - IMHO.

And then...

... the before/after contrast is skewed. The before photo is taken from above making Andrea look shorter and squatter and her torso longer while the after photo is taken from a far more flattering angle. This is nowhere near comparing apples to apples.

I wear this skirt all the time and it's incredibly flattering and gets numerous compliments. Andrea appears to have a lovely, curvy figure with a fuller bust line than mine. If the skirt looks good on me with my bottom heavy, narrow shoulder figure, there's every possibility it could look good on her because its bell shape is reminiscent of the hourglass shape she appears to have. ONLY...

... I don't wear it several sizes too big, in a dull fabric, with glaring zippers and an ill-fitting, baggy shirt and flat, unflattering, gladiator sandals. What I would really like to have seen is a before and after image that took that same skirt in the correct size with color co-ordinated zippers and put it with a fitted top of the correct length, color, and fit that had a flattering neckline and then added accessories that worked and the fancy new hairdo and shot the image from the same flattering angle as the after image. THAT would have given a totally different message overall and would have been incredibly helpful because we don't walk around in heels and pantyhose everyday.

BUT... even if it's frumpy in their opinion, it's still my favourite skirt...
And I'm still working with it...
And I'm still going to sew what I want....
And I'm still going to have fun following up tickles...
And my dress may or may not flatter me...
And so what ! ! ! ! !
It matters but...
It's not the only thing that matters
Sew what you want to sew.

Happy Valentine's Day. Next time you look in the mirror, give yourself a kiss and a big hug. You're amazing. I recently read an interesting book by Judy Ford. It's called Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled, and Independent. In it, Judy talks about how we are all born singular and how sometimes we are single in a relationship and other times we are single and not in a relationship but we will spend all of our lives with ourselves. Think about that. Every single day of your life, from beginning to end, you will spend with one person - yourself. That thought illustrates how important it is to know and love ourselves and to fulfill our passion and purpose, to be our own Valentine.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - lessons in learning to play nicely


  1. Myrna thank you for your sharp eyed comments about the before and after genre. Usually the photos are ridiculously out of balance, and just plain dishonest. And I really like your idea of a make-over that isn't false - the same skirt, for example, with a good fit and more appropriate top and shoes. The woman in your example does not even look like she is living the same life in the after picture. Most of the time the "after" shots need to be captioned "See how good she looks when she conforms to OUR standards and gets professional hair and make up?" Thanks again.

    1. That's how I feel - that the images are dishonest especially when that skirt could have been "tweaked" to look amazing on her. For those of us that sew - and this company is about sewing not RTW - those fine details of taking a pattern that is indicated as appropriate to your figure type and making it amazing on your actual figure would be fabulous to read about and incorporate.

  2. Your comments are spot on and excellent, as are Claire's.

    I hate to think of you giving up on the Koos skirt, as it turned out to be a beautiful piece. I wonder about styling it differently--with a sleek, close-fitting top, and knee-length boots. Just a thought.

    1. Thanks.

      I'm not sure about that particular Koos skirt because the line between the upper light fabric and the darker lower fabric in the back is just not pretty in me BUT... I love the pattern.. so I do want to see if smaller sizing and different fabric choices could make the difference so I both look and feel amazing. I think the same fabric in the back with a focus on the front could be good and I've been playing with the idea of altering the shape of the back to eliminate those two big folds - maybe by mirroring the front. Not sure yet but it is tickling.

  3. Myrna you made an excellent point about before and after photos. Most people don't think beyond what is in front of them and accept whatever is being said and that the pictures are proof. Sadly we live in a society that seems to take everything as gospel no questions asked. You brightened my day.
    Hope you enjoy your trip to Seattle and the Expo. I have tried a few times to make the journey unfortunately the weather has prevented the trip. The last time the weather shutdown the airport (in Juneau) down for the entire time.
    Oh yay the snow is coming down here too! Winter storm warning.

    1. LOL - I'm glad I brightened your day. Thanks for letting me know.

      Last year was the first time I went to Sew Expo because I don't usually drive in winter. It's really wonderful. Just the market and the free lectures is more than enough to fill your senses. I hope you get there some time. You might have to fly standby.

  4. I haven't looked at "Looking Good" for a while and when I went to look at the new book via you link, I realized they did it again--the models are wearing colours and clothing that look terrible on them Wrong colour, wrong style, wrong hair style and on it goes. Then they do it right but not with similar clothing showing how to take what you have and make it great. The before and the after shots should be the same type to get a really good look at how the transformation looks. I would have thought that they would have thought about the fact of what an audience would see when they looked at this transformation.

    Hope you have a great time at Sew Expo. I may just go one year as it looks fabulous.

    1. Thanks. I'm looking forward to Sew Expo although I'm going to have to practice my no because the stash is quite full. That's good. It'll help me focus on that one special piece or notion.

      I do think it would be so much more valuable to take a not quite right garment and do the things to tweak that take it from so so to amazing. Much more useful in many ways than a total overhaul... which some women do need... but not all. Most of us need tweaking.

  5. I suspect that I am going to be the divergent opinion here. The disparities of these photo's are opportunities to emphasize and illustrate their point. I really do not have a problem with it. Over emphasized, yes no doubt about it, but choosing the correct size for your height and shape will make any style look more appropriate and flattering. I find that "artsy" fashion is difficult for many of us and keeping the proportions balanced is the most difficult. Tall and thin wears it well. I am not. Then again, if the pattern illustrations for these styles were on the 5 foot 3 inch woman with a significant high hip a droopy upper torso and narrow shoulders would you buy it?

    1. OH - I so love a creative conversation. Thanks for posting your point of view. YES YES ! ! ! !

      I agree that the disparity illustrates the point but I think it would be more honest if they were at least shot from the same angle instead of making the before shot look worse and the after shot look better. I find that artsy fashion often has way too much ease and so it tends to look baggy and less flattering than it could. For me, choosing the correct size - which is all over the place - becomes even more important. And proportions as you've mentioned. That's where I think they could have done something really useful by using that same skirt and showing which proportions and lengths would have made it more flattering plus the accessories plus a flattering hair style. Sigh... I am 5'3" with a high hip and narrow shoulders. It's all about the fun of figuring it all out. The book is most likely fabulous. I'm going to check it out at Sew Expo because her first one was really useful. Applying the learning to your own body is well worth the effort. That's one of the things I really enjoyed about Fit For Real People - it illustrated using models of all sizes and shapes.

  6. Another divergent opinion:
    When I looked at the photo, I saw a perfect opportunity to talk about choices with proportions but also choices with proportioned clothing that results in less than exciting fashion. The photo on our right shows a woman dressed in fashion so out of proportion to her size and with hair that drags her down. In my view the photo on our left shows clothing that fits but does not reflect any individuality. While she looks professional, she does not look interesting to me. I did not find the photo with over sized clothing offensive. Rather, I found it to be a lesson on choosing clothing that fits your body which is a lesson that is very pertinent. The more "professional" look fits well and highlights a nice figure but to me, strips the model of personality. Fit is important but personal touches in terms of jewellery or a scarf at the neck to bring colour and pattern into play are also important.

    I learned something from both pictures and that in no way reflected on the designers of the clothing but rather on the decisions made by the models or stylists.

    1. I understand what you're saying but I felt the angle of the before photo interfered with the assessment and if it had been shot from the same angle as the after photo it would have been more honest and we could have made better comparisons. Wouldn't it be fun to see both outfits tweaked? I know I'd learn a lot from that.

    2. Your phrase - but also choices with proportioned clothing that results in less than exciting fashion - has given me something to really think about. So true. It's a bit along the lines of flattering my figure but not feeling emotionally like me and in this case not outwardly looking at all interesting to anyone else. Fashion/figure/personality is such an challenging juggling act. Thanks for the thought.

  7. An interesting discussion! Myrna, you have the a great group of readers. :)

    The skirt on the model on the right - it never occurred to me that it was created from a pattern you've used. The takeaway from that is how much fit and fabric play in the success of a garment.

    For your Koos skirt, would it ruin it to dye it a darker color? Perhaps remove the points and/or some length. I understand liking a garment (or hairstyle) and having it spoiled by a glance in a mirror or seeing it in a photograph.

    1. Oh definitely. I have a FABULOUS group of readers. I'm so thankful for the interaction and really glad that you were able to post your comments. I was worried since you were using the anonymous option.

      Isn't it amazing how much fit and fabric do impact the overall success? LOVE that. Yesterday, I tried that skirt on to reassess the proportions and because I've toned up so much with the running, it's baggy on me and not flattering in that size on this frame. Just a few pounds/inches can make a tremendous difference and that's the really big aspect of creative clothing that I think needs addressing. It often has - IMHO - far too much ease... like that Koos skirt. I don't think dyeing it would solve all the problems because I think I need to not only shorten it another couple inches but also go down several more sizes which is really quite strange as I already went down four. Very few photographs are such a total shock as that one was. A good learning curve.

  8. The loudest tickle...YES! This is my M.O. also! I feel such a kinship when I read your say the things I think!

  9. I agree, the photographs of Andrea are not playing fair. Just once I would like to see before and after photographs to be taken with the same hairstyle, same makeup and taken from the same angle. The way they have done it here really skews the results, when I went to the link, the three photographs they show from the book all are taken from a different angle. Which doesn't give me much faith in the book, although perhaps that is unkind of me.

    I have a copy of an excellent book called Flatter Your Figure, by Jan Larkey, which is unfortunately out of print. It isn't about measurements, but proportions. The photographs and images are very dated, but if you are able to look past that, you will find a treasure. The book gives instructions on how to evaluate your body, and how to flatter the figure you have. All you need is the book, two sticks, a length of string and a helper.

    It is a wonderful book and I can't recommend it enough. Probably the best book on how to dress your body. Ever.

    1. YES YES - exactly. Let's see apples to apples. I know the point is to show that we can look more amazing than we do but it's tweaking we want to see - or at least I want to see - rather than overhaul. Like just the hairstyle is different or just the garment is different or just the proportions are different so we can actually see what that subtle change did.

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll look into it. Proportion is something I want to learn more about. We can discuss it when we get together for lunch. The weather is going to warm up pretty soon and we can plan another date. YES YES.

    2. LOL - apparently I'm full of YES YES's right now. Too funny.

    3. I am really looking forward to our "date" too, I will bring the book along. YES!! YES!! 8-D lol

  10. I have Nancy's first book and have taken classes from her. I am probably also going to buy the new book. That said- I don't follow all her advice. I am an "educated consumer" as those commercials used to say and I pick and choose the advice I want. Nancy doesn't think anyone should wear jeans- and I live in them when I am not at work. I will never wear high heels. I don't always manage to add a 3rd layer to tie my look together. But her color advice is great.
    But having gone to a number of seminars with national educators- you have to realize they don't play fair. It is a competition for customers. Some of them will stop at nothing to win you over as a customer. They don't want you buying other patterns or using someone else's system. Palmer/Pletsch seems to be one of the more polite players in this game. She isn't naming the designer of the "bad" clothes. But I have been to seminars where other pros rip apart the competition. They speak right up and say horrible things about other educators and designers. One particular educator/designer was so bad at ASG convention last summer that a number of us complained. It is unprofessional and uncalled for- but it is done in the sewing world. You have to know what's up and take everything with a grain of salt. I won't buy anything from the one who bad-mouthed. I wish more of them focused on providing the sewing public with the information we want instead of on competing.

    1. I think your approach is so wise. To be an educated consumer and to pick and choose. Life style is such a critical ingredient. I thought her first book was fabulous but I spent the majority of my time on the proportion and line drawings as I found them incredibly informative. Pictures come and go and make-overs are subjective.

      Sigh... yes... not all but many don't play fair. One wonders how much more blessed in all ways - and respected - those who do bad mouth would be if they chose a different approach. There is more than enough to go around. I don't think I've ever been in a workshop where one instructor trashed another. I hope I never have that experience because it's not something I'd want to be around. All the national (and local) educators I've studied with have something unique and individual to add to the mix and - bottom line - it is up to us to figure out what works for our bodies. Not all advice is applicable depending on the our mix.

      Thanks so much for posting. I appreciated hearing your opinion.


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