Monday, January 19, 2015

Play With The Lines That Work For You

... sometimes a little tailoring takes a piece from okay to fantastic.
- Adam Glassman

You don't have to be thin to look great. 
- Lisa Kogan

When my oldest son asked what I wanted for Christmas, I carefully explained that Oprah's new book - What I know For Sure - was on the display by the entrance from Starbucks into Chapters but that if he couldn't find it to just ask for her new book.  It's small - about 5 x 7". Dream Big is much larger - about 8 1/2 x 11" - which is why I thought he'd bought me the wrong book when I saw the package. Dream Big is a compilation of articles reprinted from The Oprah Magazine and what's so interesting is that each article I've read - so far - has spoke to some "question" in my life... making it the right book.

In one of the articles Adam Glassman, the Creative Director for O, transforms columnist Lisa Kogan's look taking her from flowering earth-mother stuff to giddy with success. They do it by trying on a lot of clothes, some of which Lisa sees as all wrong until Adam shows her how to get it right by moving a hemline and taking a tuck here and there because... ... sometimes a little tailoring takes a piece from okay to fantastic. At the end of her transformation - with new lingerie and clothes that flatter - Lisa says... if I didn't know better, I'd say I was thin. I do, however, know better - the fact is, I'm not thin. But here's my newfound reality: You don't have to be thin to look great.

Looking great, no need to be thin, is a fabulous reality for those of us who sew. We can take advantage of ready-to-wear but we're not limited to it. We can nip and tuck and change and alter and we create the clothes that suit us - both emotionally and physically. Of those two aspects, I think clothes that fit emotionally may be the hardest to achieve because as we age we are, as I mentioned once before, moving targets. Each time something in our lives changes, we change and when we change there is often a subtle, or not so subtle, shift in the way we feel about our clothing, our image, how we want to view the world, and how we want the world to view us.

This lace skirt and knit top are no longer available at Peruvian Connection. The image has been in my files for years and came to mind when I decided to shorten a knit lace dress into a knit lace skirt with the goal of achieving the casual elegance I see in this image. She is not me and yet that is still the look I'm aiming for.

I started by putting on the dress with a t-shirt over-top to see if I'd like this dress as a skirt and what kind of top would I wear with it. I could have picked a better t-shirt to work with but you get the idea.

Next, I wondered about a higher waist with a shorter length bolero which led to the interesting question of how would the skirt stay up and if you're just going to wear a bolero over it, why not take off the sleeves and go from there. This is not the look short-waist-ed me wanted.

So I tucked the top in like a wrap. And it has possibilities. Only it makes me feel like a sausage. Don't you find that interesting - the point where something may actually look good on us but it doesn't feel good on us?

In another article in Dream Big, the author, Celia Barbour, talks about wanting to live the life of her white-blond, sugar-cookie, childhood hair that had turned brown over time. When she's exploring streaks, her stylist says I bet you'll like it, but once you've tried it I think you should go back. Brown suits you. Celia goes on to talk about how the resulting sunny highlights don't quite suit her, that they are fun in the same way that it's fun to try on gorgeous-but-not-me clothes in the dressing room. In front of the mirror, it's all make-believe, but the moment I step out in public I get insecure, lose my poise. For me to feel pretty, I have to be confident, and for that, I have to feel like myself.

It's always my goal to feel like myself and although A-line skirts are said to be flattering for my figure type, I have never felt all that comfortable in them. I don't feel pretty. It seems they need tailoring to go from okay to fantastic as Adam says. How I wish I had an Adam in my studio to talk me through that process especially because what I found so interesting with this dress-to-skirt experiment is that this length of skirt has been comfortable for so long and now it isn't. That's part of the moving target thing.

To alter from dress to skirt, I settled the elastic at my natural waist and drew a chalk line to mark the (tipped) waist. Once I cut off the skirt, I'll keep moving it upward from the waist until I decide it's the right length. I have a feeling that it'll be significantly shorter and I'm hopeful I'll recognize the right length when I get there. And then...

... I'll most likely pair it with some kind of wrap top like out of print Vogue 8390. As same old, same old as this style feels, it also feels emotionally me. It's a style I keep coming back to. It flatters my figure with its diagonal lines, soft shape, and curved hem. It seems to me that part of working with the moving target of our emotions and our bodies is to experiment enough to have fun and at the same time to stop trying to massively re-invent the wheel all the time. Play with the lines that work for you. Move slightly out of the box not clear into the next neighbourhood.


I'd lost enough weight to be able to finish Marcy's new pant pattern - Vogue 9035 - that I started a few months ago. Taking out the fabric factor and - and aside from the fact that they could have been longer - I don't look anything like the model.  I don't feel confident. I feel ridiculous. Like I'm playing dress-up in the wrong department. On the other hand, even though the poncho is an entirely new thing for me, it has potential. And there-in lies the struggle. How do we stay enough the same to be comfortable and change enough to stay feeling fresh, vibrant, and alive? A good question. What do you think?

I know that trouser style pants look good on me only I don't always want to wear trouser style pants and I don't want to look ridiculous (think skinny jeans) so I keep playing. Above I'm wearing The Sewing Workshop Trio pants with Katherine's Butterick 5891. Minus the big pant pockets and with a lot less ease, I think these ended up a good combination - at least it feels right. This outfit - IMHO - successfully pairs fun with trying to re-invent the wheel. The top is a new style for me too. I think it's okay. I'm debating sewing it again. And that's the lovely thing about being able to sew - we can play.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - a weekend with our daughter and her family

Getting a great new color made me realize that the right kind of change doesn't take you away from yourself; it wakes you up to yourself. 
- Celia Barbour


  1. Reading your post I feel like you've been in my head Myrna. Since I've retired (2 years) I'm constantly thinking about my style. I had figured out my work style which was tailored with an emphasis on clear colors. Now my life is more casual and my hubby and I travel quite a bit. I'm unsuccessfully trying new shapes which is discouraging but I am determined to find a style that works for my new lifestyle. Despite the wadders I'm thankful that I sew. Karen

    1. I think the secret to our "new" style is hidden in our "old" style... like the Trio pants being somewhat trouser like only less classic. At least, that's the angle I'm exploring. YES... despite wadders. I find them discouraging at the time but I learn so much and almost always I can turn the fabric into something else. This is good.

  2. "Clothes that fit us emotionally" is hands down the best way I have ever heard it described. How in the world are you supposed to find something that feels like "me" when what "me" feels like changes from day to day? Particularly heading into this new phase of life that I am. Thanks again for the repositioning.

    1. Exactly. This last year has felt like every time I get standing up straight, the ground shifts and there is always a new something to deal with and all that shifting shifted how I see myself and how I want to be seen - subtly not radically - but still something that also shifts our emotional fit.

  3. I say lop off that dress and dance around in the new skirt. I am currently playing with "new" colors for me, raspberry and brown. That's the way I play - I feel like a raspberry and brown person right now. The coral person is still in there but branching out! PS You look so happy in the last photo! Like you are having fun! PPS There are approximately 10 women in North America who look like the model. I do not know any of them and I have never seen one in person.

    1. It's definitely getting lopped off. Maybe tomorrow. I just dropped my daughter and her family off at the airport and right after I clean up behind the wee hurricane, I plan to spend some time sewing the pajama top I cut out before they got here. Raspberry and brown seems perfect for you. I"ll be intrigued to hear how it feels. I think those Trio pants are fun and so is Katherine's top. Fun is good. Only 10 in North America... hard to do when the model is airbrushed.

  4. I think I'm having some of the same issues as you are! I try different clothes and then realise that I don't like them on me. They either don't feel right for my relaxed lifestyle or don't look great on this body. (I'm currently swearing off skirts of any length!) On the positive side I'm becoming really fond of certain pieces and obviously need to make more similar ones. At least at my vintage I don't have to follow fashion anymore. Not that I ever did! If I didn't sew, I wouldn't have any clothes to wear.

    Best of luck, Myrna, on your quest for the special clothes that suit you perfectly!

    1. Really fond of certain pieces and obviously need to make more similar ones is exactly what I was thinking. Take those lines and play with them and see where they take us. I am pretty sure I never followed fashion. At one (younger) point in my life that may have been an issue. Now, I don't care. I care far more about emotional fit, even more so than figure flattering. LOL -I think this is a lifelong quest for those of us who love fashion, perpetual, never ending, mostly fun. .

  5. Myrna, this post has really "spoken" to me! I love your look in the last picture, experimenting with the dress is a really good exercise, like you I have to "feel" me in my clothes, which is very difficult at times! Thank you for such interesting posts.

    1. I'm so glad it resonated. Thanks for understanding me. Good look finding your fit. I cut the dress off this morning and started experimenting with how I'm going to finish the skirt. I think it's going to work great.


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