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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Details and how hard should it be?

Like you all here I spend a shocking amount of time plotting my wardrobe additions, pattern surfing and fabric considering. About a month ago my DD came over and brought me this purse. She said she knew I would appreciate a big red bag but  I probably wouldn't get one for myself.

I was really pleased with it and started taking this bag with me to work. The thing is that it was amazing how many of my students and colleagues complimented me on it, on my style, and just how sharp I felt carrying it.

This made me think about accessories and the fact that I get so caught up in making garments that I don't pay as much attention as I should to what real estate agents call "staging" - the little details that bring out the best in a place, or in this case, a middle-aged sewer.

Look at BWOF. I was doing that this week and noticed just how heavily accessorized the fashion shots are, how much the style of the garment is brought out by great jewelry, gloves, shoes and bags. Take all those accessories out of the picture and would the same garment be as attractive? It's an interesting exercise. Look at Shannon's blog for truly inspirational and instructional information on her nail care regime - hands like those are going to make any outfit look its snappy.

And here's another thought to add to it. Maybe it's the recession, maybe its my own sewing audit that has revealed my assumptions, time, and energy don't add up, but I have been thinking a lot about things like how much do I really need in my closet, what garments really suit me, how do I do more, or at least better, with less, or at least enough?

The concept of enough is interesting.

To me it is about reaching a point of satisfaction with what you have made or are making, of taking time to enjoy what you have done and when you wear it. Really what words would you rather have in your head about your sewing? "I am so far behind with my projects" or "I love  what I have just made myself."?

Not a hard call to make.

This brings me to the complicated question of fashion. By definition fashion changes and is about the next thing, not the present thing. Some fashions do last however, the trick is to pick the right ones. Think the 70s and a Halston dress and then say plaid bell-bottoms. Chic lasts.

Sometimes I make something fashionable and I am not comfortable in it. Right now I am wearing a twist top T shirt I made a few years ago and I only wear it on home days. Somehow it feels gimmicky to me. This top never made me feel great, it only, for a brief time made me feel in fashion and that was never quite enough.

My red bag is another story. I feel cool with it now and as I haven't invested time and energy making it when its day is past that will be fine with me. What I will keep is my appreciation of my kind and thoughtful daughter.

So before I wear myself out trying to keep up with fashion, maybe I should focus that need on accessories, on polish, and use my sewing time, that is about so much more to me that the production of stylish clothes, for things worth making and saving.

For favourites. 

After all there are few things in life as sweet as sewing yourself something and knowing as soon as you try it on that this one is destined for favourite status - something that will give you as much pleasure day after day as it did in the making. Two sets of memories in garments like these and very worthwhile use of sewing time.

So what constitutes a potential favourite?

I am just working this out but have come up with three working criteria:

1. Fabric - I just can't get into either making or wearing something if I am not nuts about the fabric. Beautiful fabric is one of the huge and permanent joys of life - right up there with the happiness of a dog, a good deep sleep, a hot bath and a mystery novel where you like the people, friends you don't have to pretend to be better than you are with, and pressing a seam in cotton.

2. Simple styles - I am as easily distracted by the bright shiny object as the next sewer but simple clothes suit me best. I am a tall, curveless girl from the Canadian Prairies, and elaborate doesn't look right on me, maybe it is the look on my face. Minimal is my genre.

3. Timeless, within reason. See simple above. If I like something I like it to last, sometimes I think the thought of throwing out good clothes because they are no longer in fashion this year is causing hundreds of frugal prairie farmers to do a synchronized flip in their graves. On a more sophisticated level see Halston, also timeless doesn't have to mean style-less, in fact if you do it right it should be style that transcends - that's a good word.

All worth thinking about, as sewing alway is.


Anonymous said...

Great thought provoking post! I am just a beginning sewist, but I can see how I might head to danger town with a too trendy pattern really quick and then never wear it. I will keep your rule of thumbs in my head as I make my sewing investments!

Shannon said...

I agree with absolutely everything you said! I truly believe in simple and sophisticated - not gimmicky and garish.

P.S. I LOVE that red bag - such a wonderful statement piece!

Jenaveve said...

I've just read this post and it has compelled me to say hello. Wonderfully truthful! Style is oh so different to fashion, and knowing what style makes your best bits look fabulous is something worth spending a lot of time on.

I loved your advice here, it's also probably why I don't sew an awful lot yet! I'm too busy researching what it is that I really WANT to make.