Some More Thoughts About Style

I have been doing less sewing and more thinking lately. I am good at doing up front planning at my job, so it surprises me that I have not really taken the same approach to dressing. I wonder what would happen if I take the same approach with choosing my clothing as I take with a project at work. Is it possible I can target specific things to sew which will result in clothes that I feel good wearing? Some days I get dressed and I feel great.
I would take stock of my resources - my raw materials, building blocks, and basic elements. I would then go about asking, "How can I manipulate my resources in order to meet my goals?"
Other days, I feel "off". On the "off" days, I usually experience more pain and fatigue, a general feeling of looking forward to taking a hot bath or putting on jammies and curling up on the couch and being done with the day. I wonder if my feelings about my appearance fuel the malaise. Can I make clothes that look great, fit well, flatter my figure, suit my lifestyle, and also feel comfortable? Clothes that will energize me? If clothing is a form of public speaking, can I choose my message as well? If this were a project at work, how would I begin?

I would start by defining goals, objectives and limits. Then I would take stock of my resources - my raw materials, building blocks, and basic elements. I would then go about asking, "How can I manipulate my resources in order to meet my goals?" I believe that all good designers manage limits well. I do this naturally at my job because I am well versed in the ways in which I can manipulate my resources. I can be very creative managing the limits which derive from my objectives because I have so much experience with the things I can do with my materials. This is where I think mastery comes from. How can I apply this to my sewing?

What do the masters do? They understand how to use the properties of raw materials - fabrics, buttons, zippers, trims, to create elements of design and style. They speak the language of clothing. What are the elements of style? What is the language of clothing? What are the limits and how are they managed? I have defined my message and my objectives, Now I need to derive my limits and use what I know about fabric to manage those limits. An example of a limit is the need to keep private parts private. A way to manage that limit is to use opacity and structure in those areas of a garment. Using my knowledge of fabrics and techniques, I can think of a few ways to create opacity - choose an opaque fabric, use a lining, use multiple layers or gathering, etc... But what do I know about style? About the language of clothing? What does a ruffle say to me? A sheer fabric? What says casual? What says professional? Does it depend on the type of garment - a jacket or a blouse or a skirt?

My wardrobe needs to meet different objectives for different activities. Therefore I am going to divide my wardrobe into capsules. I have a weekend capsule, sports capsules, and a work capsule. Since most of my time is spent in my work clothes, I will start with the work capsule. I need to define my objectives.

Work Capsule Clothing Objectives and Limits

  • Great Fit
    • Hems and side seams are straight
    • Button plackets, vents, and pockets do not gape
    • Collars lie flat
    • No ripples or strained seams
    • Pant legs skim the tops of my shoes
    • Sleeves are not too tight
  • Comfort
    • Adequate wearing ease for activities such as reaching, bending, and sitting. My thighs spread when I sit, so I need extra ease in pant legs. I like close fitting clothing, so a little Lycra can be beneficial.
    • Seasonally appropriate - I am always cold. In summer months, I am cold indoors and warm outdoors. In winter, I am just cold everywhere. In summer months, I walk to lunch. My wardrobe will need to consist of outfits which adapt to temperature changes. - Short or no sleeves with a jacket or sweater to layer on top in summer and long sleeves in winter.
    • Fabrics and underpinnings do not abrade, dig into, tickle, itch, or leave marks on my skin
  • Pristine Condition
    • Wrinkle free - I would like my clothing to look fresh all day long. I sit for long periods and do not want wrinkles across my lap.
    • No stains, rips, runs, missing buttons, etc...
  • Current or Classic Style
    • Outdated clothing looks dowdy and frumpy. It is difficult to define what is modern, but I would like my outfits to look current without being too trendy.
    • Check fashion magazines for colors and style elements which are fresh and compatible with my other objectives
  • Figure Flattery
    • Proportion - I look and feel best in clothing that is shaped through the waist.
    • Color - I prefer solid colors that are warm and moderately bright.
    • Scale - I think I look best in medium to large scale prints.
    • Contrast - I do not have much natural contrast in my coloring and I think I look best in prints or color combinations with medium to low contrast.
    • Texture - Judicious use of texture and shine can divert attention and focus. I would like the focus of my outfit to be near my face.
    • Support - Although this is an important criteria, I am not amply endowed and have no issue here except for modesty.
    • Modesty - There are areas on my body that I prefer my exact shape remain mysterious.
  • Professional Appearence
    • I would like my clothing to impart a degree of formality and professionalism.
    • My neckline needs to be modest because people approach me on foot while I am sitting.
    • My skirt length gets shorter when I am seated, so it needs to be knee length or longer when standing.

Mastering My Craft

This is where knowing how to manipulate materials to achieve goals comes into play. I have been sewing for many years and have learned much in the way of technique. Now I need to figure out when to apply those techniques and how to achieve the look I am after. This is the area I need to think about. How do I speak clothing? What do certain elements say to me? Here are some of my personal opinions:
  • I think floral prints are romantic.
  • I think contrasting colors are bold.
  • I think pleats are smart.
  • I think ruffles are youthful.
  • I think exposed skin is exciting and sexy.
  • I think dresses and skirts are feminine.
  • I think stiff fabrics are authoritative.
  • I think long skirts are formal.
  • I think prints are fun.
  • I think piping and trims are dressy.
  • I think rounded collars are more youthful than pointed collars.
  • I think sharp angles are stricter than curves.
  • I think clothing which fits well looks confident, and ill fitting clothes make a person look absent minded.
  • I think wrinkles are sloppy, but gathers and ruching are chic.
  • I think symmetry is proper and asymmetry is unconventional.
These are not hard and fast rules, but starting points to think about when I begin to design a look for myself. When I decide to make a garment, I think I should ask myself what I want it to say and choose elements that come together to communicate that message, while avoiding things which contradict it.

These are the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my brain. Hopefully, I will begin to figure out what I want to sew soon.

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