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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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Monday, May 7, 2012

Style is a verb

The subject line here says pretty much most of what I have to say about style. Let me elaborate anyway.

What does a sewer mean when she says she has lost her style or wants to have more of it? 

That really is the most interesting question.

We are women who generally have tons of clothes (in our closets and in our heads or in various stages in the sewing room) and spend an awful lot of time thinking about things wearable. We should, because we can make what we want and make it fit, feel more stylish than the average bear, but we don't.

Why's that?

I think essentially because we put so much time into making clothes (and surprisingly some of the most stylish garments this season like maxi skirts are a cinch to sew) we think of style as a garment issue. If only we made the right stuff, if only we sewed up that classics or must-have lists (remember my 10 white shirts that stalled around 5?), if only we wardrobe planned enough or did enough style research, we would have style.

I don't think it works like that.

I have gone off all the elaborate advices.

I can analyze my body type all I want and calculate how I am going to maximize this and minimize that, but I don't think I am going to feel stylish - just analytical and tired. 

I can follow all the trends and stay as "on trend" as possible but I am really not sure I want to introduce large amounts of that wanting into my life, that amount of not being satisfied.

A person might want to watch that one a bit, or work hard on enjoying the fun stuff that works and walking by the rest.

OK some "rules" make sense. I think there are a few things to consider.

Scale matters. I caught sight of myself in the mirror recently going out to a formal event with my expensive little clutch.  I looked like a tall woman carrying a pencil case. I threw it out and got a much bigger bag.

But mainly I think we all go wrong trying to chase our style by thinking it's a noun and not a verb.

Style isn't what you buy or make or copy or find by following a prescription.

Really stylish people, the ones you want to be, don't have style.

They are styling.

I learned this from my students. During the occasional tedious group presentation (those happen only rarely of course) I have kept myself entertained looking around the class and thinking, who is the best dressed here? Most students of course have small budgets and tiny wardrobes but even still some of them are really styling.

They have taught me. It's not about what you have but how you put it together.

The putting together and not the components is where it's at. It's an assembly and composition job more than a planning and acquisition task.

It's in the styling that you introduce own self and your own style into the equation. Up to that point it's just stuff.

Listen a few years ago I started to look at fashion magazines and even Burdastyle and tried to imagine what that exact same garment would look like without the accessories, the details.

Try it. It's amazing.

Scroll down this page and look at that Chanel jacket. On a hanger, or posed like I would wear it in my back yard standing stiff in a black skirt, it might look like something you would wear to a church board meeting if you went to one of those kind of churches.

They didn't present it like that did they? The model was not standing in front of a stack of chairs on green linoleum was she?

No, she had on turquoise gloves and a matching motor cycle helmet and well that was one cool looking jacket wasn't it?

I am now going to make a global statement.

I think most sewers under accessorize.  I think if they were smart, smarter than me, they would sew less garments and compose more outfits.

Just like you do for a wedding.

What wedding do you ever go to where you buy a dress and on the day reach for the regular shoes, your pencil case, and the same old earrings? Of course not.

See where I am going here.

What if we spent more time putting every garment into context? Accessorized more. Thought more, sewed less even.

Then would we be styling?

Our own style.


Charlotte said...

Great post, I think you really hit the nail on the head!

sewingkm said...

Bingo, ditto, etc! Love this post!!!

shams said...

I agree 1000%. I've been slowly figuring this out myself. I've been buying more accessories, following a few style blogs, and, most importantly, taking pictures of myself for my blog. (I learn a LOT that way!) I am working on styling myself better. I feel I am in the baby stages, but I can see an improvement.

And it's fun. :)

Great post!

Lisa H. said...

Wonderful post. You are right.Dont'the clothes we sew for ourselves deserve to be properly accessorized? I have learned more from seeing real women on blogs and everyday situations,than I ever have from the high style magazines. Real life style is much more fun.

Bunny said...

I so agree with you. I have know people who have nearly nothing but can toss a scarf is such a way that they look like a million bucks. I put the same outfit on and it's a struggle. Do those who "style" give lessons? I need them.

Dixie said...

I'm also in agreement with you here. And I confess to having become lazy with accessorizing. When I worked The Big Job, I accessorized every outfit I ever wore. Now that I work in a very casual environment - a fabric business - I pull on a pair of jeans, a top, the same old shoes, and maybe a bracelet, necklace, earrings or scarf. I do tend to Pull it Together more when I'm doing something social, but it is very easy to get lazy. Thanks for this kick in the seat of my pants!

Lena Merrin said...

This is how I ended up with many jackets and nothing to wear. Each garment was a challenge but was not really an addition to my wardrobe, just another trophy to dust :) It taught me to sew, but didn't make me stylish :) I have changed the way I sew and I only look at the technical drawings of the garments to exclude mall the nice accessories and beautiful settings that might seduce me into sewing yet another useless piece of clothing :)

Mary said...

I am going to memorize this post and the accompanying comments. I need to remember these words. You have articulated what has been brewing in my own mind for a few months.

As an aside, I taught junior high and there was no better compliment to receive than "Mrs.C, you are stylin' today!"