October 10, 2011

Dressing for Flattery

Carolyn posted a very interesting conversation the other day.  Of course, being who I am - I immediately started thinking about how it applies to my life and sewing. 

I just spent the last 3 days at a sewing retreat sponsored by my local ASG chapter.  It's big fun - but I over the course of 3 days I made 2 dresses, 2 t-shirts, and 2 skirts for me.  Everything was precut and kept in ziplock baggies with all the appropriate notions.  Skirts are hemmed, tops are finished and ready to wear - the dresses still need hems.
McCalls 5974

The one thing I heard over and over - Wow!  That dress looks great on you - in relation to McCalls 5974.  I made the scoop neck view without the waist tie and it was suggest that I make the mock wrap view as well.

But often I feel like I'm the person Sewist #1 in Carolyn's dialog is referring to.  The last dress I made - not very flattering at all - fun print, comfortable to wear - but it was a very shapeless sack.  How come nobody says anything?  Well - with the exception of Marjie who always says it with love and tenderness.

Several of the other woman at the retreat spent the entire weekend (9 am Friday to 4 pm Sunday) working on one garment.  One woman made a lovely, lightweight cotton skirt.  It was pleated and she put in a handpicked zipper - it's lovely, but honestly I could never spend an entire 3 days making one garment. 

Even working in a law office my life is very, very casual.  Yes, I dress up my weekends a bit with mostly skirts and tees but why do I walk away from a wonderful weekend feeling like I can't sew my way out of a paper bag or dress myself.  I've done the exercises, ripped pages from magazines, studied colors, shapes, etc.  How do you do it?  How do you figure out how to dress an ever changing body in a flattering, but comfortable manner and not always throw on yoga pants or a shapeless dress?


  1. Yikessss! that is a question that women have to deal with as our bodies changes. For me using a certain type of undergarments help create the look I want, and doing a lot of visual shopping and even trying on clothes in the department stores gives me a better prospective of what looks good on me, therefore it helps me make better choices when I choose my pattern. Let us not forget that eating healthier and a little exercise will also delay the changes in our bodies.

  2. Oh boy, I'll be watching these comments - 'cause I have no clue what I'm doing. I sew and pray it looks ok when it's done.

    Whatever that gene is that lets people look at a piece of fabric and picture it made up, and pick a pattern that they know will look good on them - well, I don't have that gene.

    As for quickie sewing...I'm not there yet, EVERYTHING takes me a long time ! What you made in a weekend would likely take me 6 months LOL.

    I'm looking forward to seeing your projects, sounds like a fun weekend.

  3. How do I do it? I don't. I start out with the what appears to be the right attire. One look in the mirror and I'm trying to hide 'everything' with a jacket/shawl etc. Can't wait for winter coats then I don't have to worry about it....LOL

  4. These are all good questions to which I would also like answers. For me, comfort is a major factor in the process because if I feel uncomfortable, it's tough to do a good job at whatever it is I'm doing. That said, when a body is constantly morphing, what fits well and feels comfortable changes too. And then we're back to the questions....

  5. Hem. I ask you what I should wear, or wait for Janie to point out that with my shoulders/bust, I shouldn't wear a square neck.

    I hope others have advice, because I sure don't.

  6. Very thought provoking post Gaylen. For me, I believe it is a process of trial and error. Sometimes the styles I am drawn to look like crap on me no matter how nicely I sew them. Sometimes the styles I think will look like crap turn out to really look nice and become a TNT pattern. This usually happens when Tom looks at a pattern and picks a view that I wouldn't consider. I try it because I've learned he has a pretty good eye. Who looks at me more? I don't know, would JB be objective? I also tend to stick with pattern makers that I know the fit is good. Jalie patterns have never let me down and Tasia's Sewaholice patterns are becoming a fast favorite. I get a lot of inspiration from checking out what everyone else is doing through their blogs. I think some of it has to come from acceptance too. This is the body I have now, like it or not, and it's my job to adorn it the best I can. HTH...

  7. Regarding your comment "Why didn't anyone comment..." on the garment you described as unflattering, here is my approach. If someone specifically asks for opinions on something that I may think is not the most flattering, I will offer what I hope is constructive criticism. But if an opinion is not requested and I don't like something, I don't think it's my place to comment. I don't want to be the one to rain on someone's parade when they aren't expecting it. One of my pet peeve's is a hurtful comment that the culprit attempts to justify by adding the phrase, "Hey... I was only being honest."

    The flip side of it is that I think it is ALWAYS appropriate to offer positive feedback, even when not solicited as long as its truthful. Insincere flattery is just as bad as unsolicited negativity.

    There ya go... Bonnie's opinion on opinions. :-)

    And I would love to see the results of your sewing weekend!

  8. I rarely sew garments anymore; however, I still have patterns and sometimes have the urge to make some new clothes from some old favorites. The styles I tend to chose are classic, so no fear of being too dated.

    Once I find a pattern that fits without too much alterations, then sewing is a cinch.

  9. When I was much younger and a size eight a friend asked me why I always wore loose, shapeless dresses. I had a warped body sense. I had a nice, slim body but I felt that I looked fat in form fitting clothes. I forced myself to change and was glad of it.

    I'm lucky to be able to visualize a garment from looking at the pattern and feeling the fabric. I know what styles will look good on my more mature, heavier figure, but that doesn't mean I won't wear something I like just because I like it regardless of how anyone else feels about it. I don't especially care what their opinion is and don't want to hear it.

    I think we need to be truthful with ourselves about our bodies and what looks good on them, but also be honest about what we like and what feels good. We can't always wait for others to verify our choices. We're big kids now.

  10. I have one anonymous commenter who never fails to make nasty, bordering on obscene comments about my clothes. Last time, he/she told me that I'm "pushing 60" and need to dress for my age. I delete those comments immediately so I don't have to see them again. But I don't think I should tell someone else what to choose to wear without their asking or intimating that they might want help. Then I try to say only things that I think will help this situation in a way that this friend or acquaintance can use in her life. I knew you and JB were not terribly pleased with that dress, although you did like that adorable print, and thought I could help you.

    I saw Carolyn's post, too. I just can't spend too much time on any one thing, because then I feel that I've accomplished nothing. And I like simple, classic lines, so mostly I stick with those. I'm comfortable with them, I mostly know how they'll go together, and I can finish them in a time frame that makes me happy. Carolyn's sewing is beautiful and detailed, but it wouldn't work for me, and truthfully, I don't need it, because my life is very casual, too.

    In spite of my preoccupation with Cass' car accident on Friday, I finished another V1250, which I had cut out the previous weekend. In spite of doing exactly what I had done for the previous two, this one came out absolutely huge. I had to take an aggregate total of 4" out of the 3 seams to get it to fit. The only difference is that this was a nylon knit instead of a polyester knit or a poly/lycra knit. And I knew I wouldn't wear it as it was, so I had to get merciless with the serger. So sometimes we think something will come out great, and instead, because of the fabric, it really sucks. I think that's all part of the process. And I think we have to work the process however we feel comfortable.

    Glad sewing retreat went so well. I'd like to see the results, too! Do you machine hem? I'd never finish anything if I had to hand hem. So, definitely call me sewist #1's reference.

  11. YOU are much too hard on yourself! Be kind. YOu get so much more done than anyone I know....I love the scoopneck version of the dress. I NEED to think about making myself one.

  12. Maybe look at how a "celebrity personality" with your body type dresses? Or what I do is simply go shopping and try cloths on and look in the mirror. What I realize is that large shapeless garments look like a potato sack on me and some clothing lines I don't know how they sell anything to anybody - it is all hideous when tried on!!!

  13. I know I'm late to the party here - and thank you to everyone who spoke nicely of my creations - but I think dressing nicely is all about learning your style...and your style is what colors and silhouettes look good on you and what you feel most comfortable wearing. Then make combinations of those pieces.

    I really only make several things over and over again with a preponderance of dresses in my mix. So if you can determine what outfits you like to wear then what colors you look best in...those would be the two pieces of advice I would share on making outfits you love.

    Also, I agree with Bonnie about giving opinions. Too often if you ask for advice there will be someone who will leave the nastiest comment EVAH that will totally hurt your feelings. I don't know why the "anonymity" of the internet makes people feel like there is no need for civility but it does and someone always goes for it...so that may be why many of us shy away from posting a negative comment.


I appreciate you coming to see me. It may take me a bit to publish your comment - but I will get to them by the end of every day. If you leave a way for me to get back to you, I will. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your opinions. g

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