Tuesday, October 05, 2010

My Sewing Theory

It's interesting to read your comments on various postings...some make me laugh (Rachelle), some make me think and some make me want to print them out and carry them around on little business cards to look at during the day! *LOL*  And to whomever wrote the comment, that I sew the best business clothing on all the blogs you visit ~ a very heartfelt thank you!  I've been hearing that comment in my head since you wrote it. 

See, sewing a wardrobe for me is a challenge.  I'm plus size, I love vibrant colors and prints and I work in a conservative environment where a corporate work wardrobe is required AND actually stated in the employee handbook.   So when I first started this job (four years ago this month and I can't believe I've lasted here that long!), my wardrobe was in no way up to the clothing requirements for the job.  I will admit that I took some wrong turns ~


A co-worker actually taunted me about this jacket...


And this outfit never really worked well...

However, I preservered and I believe that I now have a well rounded work wardrobe entirely sewn by me.  Seriously, I could never find these garments at a retail outlet in my size.  Although I am inspired by several internet sources, and quite a few catalogues and magazines.  So, if you need to make a wardrobe for a conservative workplace and value fashion, style and a little color, I would like to share my "go-to" sources for inspiration for my wardrobe.

1.  Style.com
Most of us know about style.com - we check it every season when the fashion shows occur.  But do you realize that the shows for each designer is on the site for several years?  And do you realize that after the season ends that they add many extras like upclose pictures of designer details?  I use a lot of the details in my garments to make them unique but still fit within the confines of my workplace requirements.

2.  Talbots
I love the Talbots site.  I loved it before they revamped it and lately it is one of the first places that I go when looking for new ideas!  It is primarily classics but lately they have upped the ante and added color and details that just make you want to look like the models...well, okay, I do!  *LOL*

3.  Dillards
Dillards is a chain store like Macy's that primarily services the southern United States.  But I love how they have great sections on store lines that I can bookmark and copy to my heart's content.  The Alex Marie line and the Antonio Melani line provides loads of inspiration when I'm hunting for a new way to make my TNT dress pattern sing.

4.  St. John's
I LOVE these designs!  I think my still unmet goal of sewing amazing pantsuits comes from the designs on this site.  Every season I'm inspired by what they show.  Sometimes I need to tone down their color and print combinations because these outfits are definitely for the ladies who lunch crowd but I love these garments...and you know that they don't do plus sizes! *LOL*

5.  Honorable Mentions
I always check these sites too but only when I'm digging deep for inspiration:

Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Chicos, JJill, Coldwater Creek - too much of their stuff is basic and I'm looking for that level that's just above basic.  However, I usually can find something that starts my creative juices flowing, so they are worth investigating.  Also, several of these sites are trying harder to attract women like me so the styles, the colors and materials have been updated...definitely worth spending some time checking them out.

I also love magazines and subscribe to all the fashion magazines ~ InStyle, Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire, and Lucky.  I don't subscribe to Vogue anymore...just pick up the interesting issues from the newsstand.  Besides styles...I'm looking for interesting details, colors and combinations.

But the most valuable tip I can pass on is that I don't look at sizes.  Sizes mean nuthin to me since I can make just about anything.  What's important to me is the shape of the garment.  Does that shape look good on MY body?  Will the silhouette and proportions work for me?  If so, the picture gets cut out, or it gets saved to my computer and goes into the inspiration file.

I think there are two important elements here - knowing what works for you and knowing how to make it.  I learned how to do that from these two books ~ "Make it Your Own - Personalizing Patterns for Creative Design" by Lori Bottom and Ronda Chaney and "Making a Complete Wardrobe from 4 Basic Patterns" by Rusty Bensussen.  If you want to learn how to take a pattern from it's humble beginnings and imagine it into anything you can think of both of these books will teach you how to do it...and so much more! 

Finally don't be afraid to experiment...to try something out...to go in a different direction than you've gone in before.  Yes you may fail...and I've done so too but then again you might end up making the most amazing garment!  Something that you wouldn't have thought you could make...and believe me once you have one of those triumphs under your belt...it makes it much easier to climb out on that limb and take another chance.

I know not everyone requires the kind of work wardrobe that I need but the challenge of a TNT pattern or making a wardrobe is not just for me.  We all have to get dressed every day and need clothing that makes us feel good about ourselves.  I believe these principles can be applied to any lifestyle...just know what colors work for you, what fabrics make you feel good wearing them, what style you want to portray and be adventurous!  Isn't that why we sew, to get what we want?

Think about it and let me know...

...more later!

31 comments:

  1. Excellent advice and recommendations. Lately I feel like all I have made is simple dresses but I've never found it easier to find things to wear than this summer, and usually summer dressing here is a nightmare so I am happy! I won't stop experimenting (and making mistakes) though.

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  2. You really are an inspiration. Excellent advice, great sites to reference. As a result I've started looking at patterns again after not sewing for myself for 10+ years.

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  3. Very insightful! Your advice to motivate people to seek out sewing inspiration is great advice. We as seamstresses are capable of great sewing feats if we just learn to break out of the box. I love that you don't limit yourself and especially the part about "no looking at sizes". Keep doing what you're doing---your sewing instincts are sharp and inspiring!

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  4. I totally agree with you! And I do the same. I am a plus size girl and I have fun with my sewing experiments!

    I know what shapes work for me and I often go back to the same skirt pattern. I experiment a lot with new patterns and spend quite a bit of time on muslins, but it is so worth it! I end up with clothing that is fitted and makes me look good. I would never find anything as nice in shops for less than a few hundred dollars!

    Lately, I fell in love with the Louis Vuitton collection. So feminine, flattering and wearable!

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  5. Wow, I love how you took a daunting task and broke it down for me. I struggle with selecting what to sew - since each piece takes a lot of time, I need to make each one count. Great advice!! I'll add every one of those websites to my favorites.

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  6. What a way to start my day. This was such an inspirational post loaded with tons of great advise and recommendations. Great reference sites.
    You are such an inspiration, because you have the gift of knowing how to write and express yourself easily. Today I have a somewhar daunting and difficult task at work, but after reading your post I feel great and ready for the challenge at work. Off to work doing the happy danceeeeee

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  7. Carolyn - you are my inspiration for business wardrobe sewing. Like you, I'm plus size and although I don't have to dress up every day, I do most days. I also LOVE color and don't want to look like a boring accountant in navy blue every day. I can't believe you co-worker taunted you about that sweater - it's gorgeous!!!

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  8. Great review of the sites. Thanks so much. This post is full of wonderful inspiration and information.

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  9. Thank you so much for this post. You're such an inspiration.

    ~Sewjourner

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  10. You are such an inspiration to me. You really seem to have this wardrobe choices thing down pat. Thank-you for your insight.

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  11. Wonderful advice! If there is anything that I could add...I not only go to those same sites for inspiration, but I also look for parallels to what I am thinking about making. When I first started sewing, a lot of what I made fell into that "Becky Home-Ecky" category (as Michael Kors might say) and I think the reason for that was that I was selecting patterns and fabrics purely based on personal taste and not taking into account current fashion. Now, when I get a wild hair and want to sew with ruffles...or a distinctive style...or a distinctive print...before I start, I go "snoop shopping," and look for what is current, and as a result my sewing has gotten better...not because my technique has necessarily improved, but because what I am making is more in line with current styles.

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  12. You know that I don't need a corporate wardrobe, but I do need and want clothing that makes me feel and look good and fits my lifestyle. I too use the internet to find inspiration. I didn't know that Style.com adds details later. Cool.
    You've written a really thoughtful post on how to find and use inspirations and fit them to our non standard bodies with as much style and ease as possible.

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  13. Carolyn, thank you so much for sharing your MO and the sites you go to for inspiration. Your blog is one of my inspiration sites!

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  14. What a great post! I'm always stunned by your generosity -- I know it takes time to put this down in writing, make all the links, etc. Thanks so much for taking the time!

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  15. Let me just say, if you want me to I'll punch your co-worker in the nose. I really like that jacket. What's wrong with it in her eyes? I have to admit that I never consult online resources or fashion shows for inspiration. I will look at fashion magazines occasionally but for the most part I find out what's currently "in" by reading blogs (yours especially), the sewing catalogs, what's being worn at church, on the street, and at my job. Living in a small town, I don't want to dress too over-the-top and draw unwanted attention to myself. Your post is very insightful and I may have to broaden my horizons by visiting some of the resources you suggest.

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  16. I wonder . . . and I would love to see . . . what you would wear to work if you could wear ANYTHING you chose. I'm thinking it would be a professional office, but you wouldn't have to dress so conservatively. You have such impeccable style, and I think it's a crime that your creativity has to be limited as a result of a corporate dress code. Still, I bet you're the best dressed woman in your organization, and your co-workers must envy your fabulous wardrobe!

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  17. Carolyn, thank-you for such a great post. I've watched your blog for a while and have been inspired by your work, your writing and now you give me such a great reference piece that I know I will visit over and over again. Thanks!

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  18. Thank you for this, Carolyn. You are a real inspiration!

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  19. Fabulous post. You are always so encouraging. Just so you know, I clicked right over and bought the 4 patterns book. I have 2 of them down - skirt and t-shirt. Guess I should find which 4 patterns, she uses!

    I want a grown up work wardrobe. :) This year - I will get one! g

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  20. Carolyn, Thank you SO much for that thoughtful, and deeply informative post. You've done all the work for us!

    I wouldn't mind dressing better, but I'm between sizes (and hate to invest sewing time in something that won't fit later on) and I'm so depressed about my job (yes, I know, I'm grateful to have one) that it's tough to brighten up.

    Your listing of sources is so helpful (and i think I already have one of those books :-).

    OK, now I want to hear about the co-worker who commented on the jacket. I *like* that jacket. Looks comfortable, conservative, yet different with the lace scallops. I really hate co-workers right now too. ;-)

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  21. I'm so inspired after reading this post -- it makes me want to go dig the 7 yards of wool suiting I got last year that's languished in my stash since last winter and do something fun (and work appropriate!) with it. Thanks for making my day.

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  22. This post is exactly why I fell in love and tried my hand at sewing for myself. Thank you so much for yet another informative and insightful posting. I need to revamp my ideas and get the resource material you suggested. I would like to make skirts for myself but have yet to find a TNT pattern that works for me do you have any suggestions? Thank you again for sharing your wealth of knowledge with me.......it has been inspiring.

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  23. Thank you for the advice! They're all fun to look at!

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  24. I have not been sewing for years but since I came across your site, I feel really inspired to start again [as so many others have said]. You have a real passion for what you do and it certainly comes through in your sharing times. Keep up the good work and thanks for the links!!! Could it be that the co-worker was really envious-hmmm? :-D

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  25. Thank you! For some reason this post really resonated with me and has inspired me to get stuck in again....i would love to make myself some dresses but struggle to know what shape will be most flattering for my pear shaped body :-}

    i am going to order the books you listed right now, and will work on a TNT dress pattern for the summer months :-)

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  26. Well said! I have to admit, when I first learned my office was going to a business dress code, yours was the first blog I went to for inspiration!

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  27. I can't believe you were taunted over that gorgeous jacket! I love that one. My sewing has changed so much over the years based on where I was at in my life. I've always dressed professionally but have had jobs where I could also be very creative and "out there". Not now. While we don't have an official dress code, it's a conservative environment that at times requires a very professional (suit). I'm inspired mostly by magazines as I just don't have time any longer to browse websites. This was a great post - thanks for sharing.

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  28. What a great post! I feel like I'm still sewing to fill wardrobe holes, but little by little I'm trying to snoop shop and make things that are on trend, but are uniquely mine. And can I just say that Talbots is kicking butt recently with their web redesign and their catalogues. I feel like they're doing a good job of looking more current.

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  29. You mentioned a few sites I should checkout. I find Talbots and Nordstroms catalogs my best inspirations. I scan pages to computer and keep in my fasion ideas folder.

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  30. for inspiration, i also like talbots. but my favorite is etcetera.com. they have 4 collections a year. the website has photos, and sometimes, line drawings.

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  31. A very useful post! I know I'm late but this is very helpful for me. I'm tired of mu SAHM jeans& tshirt wardrobe AND I'm almost SUPER plus size.

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