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I am a mother, a 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 book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon

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Sunday, December 1, 2013


We are heading into The Busy Month and I have many thoughts and projects rattling around in my brain.

Christmas is going to occur in several stages and probably one off location this year and getting ready for that is, next to my end of term marking, top of the list.

My youngest son and girlfriend are off to New Zealand for six months December 11, so there is a Christmas replication dinner going on next weekend here, and I have to get my sewing/knitting done in advance of that for them. And it is likely my son in NYC won't have the time to take the usual week off to come home this year (all good because I know he is welcome at his girlfriend's parents' if that happens - got to make sure all family is covered by family somewhere) and I have to get their gifts sent off soon too.

Mixed in with all of this is sort of a reset thing going on with me prompted by the large recent birthday (60) and the realization that somehow a few things in my life have simultaneously passed their expiry date.

One of these things is rethinking my professional life and for lack of a better way to say it, what my professional life has done to me.

I can express this best through sewing.

All of you who work or have worked in corporate or, in my case government/politics too, will know what I mean by The Look. The dark clothes, subdued look that just goes with the territory. It is the same territory occupied by meetings, standing committees, strategic plans, follow-up emails, and being careful to establish your own competencies within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone. You know those 30 seconds you could have spent finding out how nice the other person was instead.

Well somehow my lifetime allocation for all of that has been used up. My lines, so carefully drawn for so many years between who I am and who I am at work, have started to blur and that is just fine with me. All of a sudden.

This does not mean I don't love my work, I really love teaching, but increasingly the core business of students is all I really care about, and I care about it a lot. It matters to me how these kids turn out, that I can give them skills and ideas to help them in wherever they are going, but mission statement design - not so much.

Sorry about that.

So the energy of the classroom is inspiring my work clothes rethink and that right now means the completely black and grey wardrobe is on its way out.

I figure if I don't get it under control the mass market will turn me into one of those middle-aged women who ends up dressed like this at fun events:

I have no idea what Guy LaRoche was thinking, but really what kind of a life does this express?

Now the problem in not doing the look after all these years, is it is a bit unnerving and I have to figure out how to do it.

For instance I can't imagine what I was thinking when this piece climbed onto the cutting table at Mood last week. Not sure where I think I am going to wear something like this, although it would probably be suitable for a funeral in Florida. I mean I have to watch myself lest I end up, at top speed, like a semi-retired colleague who turned up at a meeting in purple shoes, socks, pants, top, jacket and purse.

This sort of thing could easily happen if there aren't still some kind of braking systems in play. 

Be prepared to spit out your coffee:

And I need a second opinion on the orange double knit I mentioned before. Do you think I can get away with this in a plain dress? Maybe with a grey sweater over it? It really is more a coral I decided, and definitely something that appealed when I must have been seriously vitamin C deprived.

Probably time to get The Light (the one I got one February at the huge pile at the local drugstore) out:

Or at least I need to get myself some more sewing time.

Yesterday I was able to get some time to do that. I am imposing my growing randomness on the family. For instance I went to New York with napkins I had made with retro vinyl record print on them, because my son had told me they had bought a "mid-century modern" turntable. Not sure what they thought of the napkins but I can guarantee you they didn't already have any and my son, well-trained to notice these things, gave my full marks for my miters.

On that theme yesterday I started sewing a flannel shirt for my youngest son who has been spending at lot of time working on his cabin. I figured this print was perfect:

And on that theme again,  he is Mr. Sustainable Living, I am also knitting him socks out of my left over heavy Swedish sock wool, randomly. Here is the first one:

Of course the second sock isn't going to look at all like this one and hopefully he will see that as a good thing.

I figure I may keep going like this until the family tells me to stop, or I catch sight of myself in head-to-toe purple.

Whatever comes first.


Karen in VA said...

I love the print you bought from Mood. I'd wear it in a heartbeat...When I worked for one of the Big Four accounting firms (Big Eight back then), I'd always wear my red suit on firm meeting days-just couldn't handle all that dark blue and charcoal grey... Life is too short to not be yourself!! Go for the colors!!!

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

The orange would make a wonderful sheath dress. I know this because I own one myself for summer - must duplicate for fall/winter. You will find a use for that lovely print and rethinking that's good. However, I don't believe that you'd ever turn up for a meeting in purple head to are a little more aware of fashion than that poor person was/is.

Barbara said...

Hey, what's wrong with purple head to toe anywat?

theresa said...

After a lifetime of mostly living in trousers and boots I've rediscovered skirts and dresses. I must say I am enjoying it. I agree on your getting out of "The Look" and getting some more color into your wardrobe. I'm anything but fashion conscious but it is nice to look well put together.

Anonymous said...

I wondered about that Guy Laroche dress as well. Was there a contest to make the most unattractive garment of 2013?

Would that fabric not be happy being a summer skirt. Mood elevating,

Nancy said...

You can wear either of those if you style them correctly. The print as a top under a conservative suit. I would wear an orange dress in a flash. I would just combine it with a navy jacket and the right jewelry. You could easily transition to a "conservative with an edge" style and end up as the best dressed in your company.

Janet said...

I have been warning my family for some time now. I guess when you get to a certain age (for me it is 51). You are quite prepared to do things on your own terms, especially how you want to express yourself through clothing. My old look was navy, black and grey. (slimming, modern, tailored…) It seems too severe for this time in my life. NOW, I want colour, texture, comfort, interesting, and unique...It might not always look "together" or "right". I have warned them…it's coming...

RebeccaHoward said...

I agree with Carolyn. The orange would look great as a sheath dress. If you can't bear all over orange, how about colour blocking it? Maybe black down the sides, or charcoal grey. If you get a sheath pattern with princess seams this would be easy to do. Wearing all black is the cheats way to dress. Bam, bam, bam. All dressed, everything goes. Colour, now. That requires some careful thought and judicious selection so you don't finish up looking like you walked out of rainbow commune.

Unknown said...

Yes, for sure go with colors! I agree with Karen...I'd wear that Mood's a gorgeous print, sort of like a watercolor painting of our planet...I love it! And as for the orange or coral, whatever it is, it's also very pretty and yes you could wear a gray sweater over it, but why???

Jacq C said...

I like both fabrics but particularly the orange/coral and think you could wear them both very stylishly. I've never been confident about my appearance and always went for 'safe' options. I saw a colour consultant (a gift from my OH who couldn't bare to see how stressful I found getting new clothes) - it's been a slow change over about 10 years but I now wear the colours that prompt a 'have you had a holiday' type comment and avoid those that provoke a concerned 'are you well?'. For me one of those is orange - a colour I would never have worn in my 20s or 30s. Now in my late 40s I figure life's too short to wear colours that make me feel miserable. If I stand out at work functions I figure it's probably because I'm smiling :)

Bunny said...

I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that Guy LaRoche dress. What on earth could have been the inspiration for that?

Love your choices and agree that they can be worked into a conservative base wardrobe and give you a fashionable edge. The print I would have done in a heartbeat.

Jen in Oz said...

Omg. Today the only non purple I'm wearing is my bra. T-shirt, skirt, sandals and even hair is purple. What's wrong with purple anyway?

badmomgoodmom said...

Thank you for the chuckle.

I pulled out my black suit and black silk blouse for a job interview next week. Then I swapped out the black jacket for a purple one. Now you've made me second guess my outfit.

When I saw this:
I rather liked it. I also saw the style in a light colored linen in an ad. I liked that, too. Why don't you try that style with your print from Mood?

Speaking of working in government, have you ever worked with the military? The guys actually show up for meetings in their flight suits to emphasize that they are pilots and we are not. The rocket scientists sit together in a peanut gallery b/c we are actual rocket scientists and they are not. ;-)

I don't mind the dark suits b/c spilled coffee doesn't show.

Anonymous said...

The fabric didn't cause any coffee-spitting, but the notion that your son is so well-trained that he gave you full marks on your miters did. Here's to embracing color and cherishing the young, and leaving the drab and the committees behind. Elle

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are going through since I've been there since retiring 4 years ago. The transition from the work world to someplace new and unknown is befuddling. It's an evolution, trying on new things and discovering if they work for me and make me happy or uncomfortable.

Obviously, the person who showed up in all purple was comfortable with their expression of who they are now and that's fun and kooky -- and very brave! I think that's what this phase of life should be, an expression of who you really are.

It's kind of like junior high all over again, finding your true self which has somehow gotten lost after many decades of following rules. Now that your kids are grown and your income doesn't depend on playing the right part and looking a certain way, it's the ultimate freedom!

Enjoy! It's fun and besides, it's only clothes. Try different looks and donate what you find doesn't make you feel happy!

SewRuthie said...

Ironically I am going the other way right now, bought two black suits and a grey one and am wearing blouses instead of knits. I'm treating it as a uniform. Hope that works!

freshcityfarm said...

Your post was so incredibly funny! I can relate to it all :)

Anonymous said...

For the orange double knit, I would suggest a dress with details because it is a solid colour and would show that well, like the heather or trixie dress from style arc. A cardigan (use it to dress up your grey wardrobe) or a blocked shirt/dress (using grey as the other colour).
For the coloured fabric, which is great, you could do a summer dress or a tunic top (with the yoked front like kwiksew 3162) and wear it with your barb pants.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog a few weeks ago and love that we are close in age and life circumstances. I also work in education at a 50,000 + student higher ed bureaucracy...oops, I meant university. I advise students.I understand all your work comments and the thin line that (happily) begins to dissolve when you reach a certain place in life where what matters resonates so loudly within your being. Having celebrated another b'day the day after Thanksgiving, I had a manicure and had my nails painted what one of my students today called "Tiffany" blue with silver sparkle on top! It has been so much fun! And, I "wore" them to my!So liberating :)Just keep doing what you know is right and feels are on the who knows where...oh, did I mention your sewing those too!

LinB said...

I feel that, if you can't be bright, you can at least dress brightly. In my wardrobe, the tie-dye print would be a neutral. (Well, I exaggerate. A bit.)

Inkstain said...

I went through a wonderful season when my two growing boys wanted my socks to keep their feet warm at night in their freezing English university rooms. (The word dorm would be too kind to describe the 12th century hellholes they inhabited where the windows had a draft as thick as my thumb but couldn't be replaced because of the priceless stained glass.

The POINT is, everything changes when you master the trick of knitting both socks at the same time, using two double-pointed needles, and two balls of yarns. It is really easy and just remember to use nailpolish to mark one set of ends. Socks whizz up in no time with no 'one-sock still not done' exhaustion.