I’m not going to go over old ground here as I’m sure many of you read Coletterie.com, the blog for Colette Patterns. Sarai is writing a series of blog posts about designing and curating a wardrobe that reflects who we are. This is a wordy post. I completely understand if you’d rather skip over this one as this is as much me ‘thinking out loud’ as it is anything else!
I love the shiny and new, I love outlandish patterns as well as the pretty ones. I also work in a pretty conservative office that may not appreciate some of my favourite dresses in certain circumstances (but they can deal with my bright red hair so…). I’d also like to sew things I’m going to wear to threads. I’ve already culled part of my pattern collection and raised a bit of money through eBay that has bought me some knit fabric and a rather fabulous umbrella. A second cull is forthcoming. But before I cull patterns that made it through the first cut, it makes sense to think a little more about what I want as well as what I need in my wardrobe.
Want and need aren’t exclusive in my books. I can want a pretty pattern but not need it, I can make a wardrobe key stone in a less than basic fabric. Some of my sewing is going to be just because I want a garment in that print or because I like that pattern, some is going to be built around requirements such as solids and work basics. There’s going to be a mixture of cake and frosting as whilst I sew for my unique shape I also sew for fun and the sheer joy wearing a full skirted dress brings me!
My tastes have changed over the years, they can change at the drop of a hat or take a while to evolve. I have a split personality when it comes to my wardrobe; a tomboy and a girly girl. As I write it’s been a long day at work and I’m still in one of (and there are a number due to the variety involved in my job) my ‘uniforms’. Today is jeans, a long sleeve T with a work polo-shirt over the top and my work fleece on the back of the chair as I’ve been digging around, handling things and been in cold places. Other days may require ‘professional’ as I’m interviewing or in court. Then there are days where either goes or a fun dress is going to be OK. Day’s where I’m not quite sure what’s on the agenda (or know that it my change at short notice) means black trousers and the polo shirt.
So, my wardrobe has to wear many hats professionally! Then of course, there is Boy. Who loves it when I wear dresses but also wants to climb trees, race the dogs in the park, or bounce on a trampoline. So there’s even more reasons to support my multi-personality wardrobe.
What I do know is that I like dresses with a fitted bodice and a flared skirt. Trousers always used to be wide legged and for work that still holds true, but I now prefer a slimmer cut for my jeans. I need my work wardrobe to be different to my home wardrobe. I don’t mind an element of overlap but for a long time I wore the same thing working or not. I need to put work in a box when I’m not there and dressing differently helps me do that.
My religion doesn’t affect my aesthetic. My philosophy towards clothes has changed though as a result of a number of factors: money, learning to sew, recent events in the clothing trade. I’m more grown-up with my money now and consider my purchases more. Learning to sew means that I expect more from my off the peg clothing – I look at construction and finish and will pay for a better garment (within reason). The name on a piece of clothing means nothing and I’m sure as hell not paying more just because it’s on there!
This is a departure from when I was growing up. To be frank, I really was clueless about fashion until my mid-teens and then only became aware because my younger sister was really trend conscious and started steering me towards and away from certain things. For a while she was (and would admit) that the name meant everything and I followed suit. Thankfully nothing horribly expensive but there was a lot of branded sports wear for our tom boy lifestyles. When I met Husband I didn’t change the way I dressed as I was comfortable and it didn’t bother him, although a nice dress was always appreciated!
The turning point for me has been the addition of Boy. For a few reasons.
The first is that I want him to have a really strong set of values about respect (for himself and for others), equality, pride (as in self worth and confidence) as well as empathy. So much you can tell, but you can teach so much more by example. If I show him that I have respect for myself and take pride in myself then he will too. If I show him that he doesn’t need to follow the herd to be respected and treated as anyone’s equal then that will be his expectation. Believe me, I don’t want some bratty, attitude laden little s*** as a son. I do want him to follow his own path (he’s got some strong ideas about what he’ll wear and he isn’t afraid to be different. School uniform may be a challenge in September!) whilst also being mindful and accepting that others may choose a different way and that this does not make them any more or any less than him.
The second is that being pregnant, nursing and being a Mum has changed my body. It’s softer, it’s bigger and my stomach will never be flat again. So bodycon dresses aren’t for me; if it’s too fitted over my stomach I spend all my time trying to put something over it! I still have a thing for pencil skirts and whilst I’m not sure if they’ll work for me, I’m gonna give it a try. I do know I like a fitted bodice though and if I pair that with a flared skirt I can concentrate on the areas in which I have a level of confidence (above the waist and below the hips) and gloss over the bits I’m not so comfortable with (my stomach and butt). This isn’t said to fish for compliments or reassurance. I’m damn proud of what I achieved in giving birth to a happy and healthy little boy. I’d do it all again with the same physical fall out in a heartbeat. Sure I’d love to be slimmer but that’s mainly for health reasons (there is some vanity in there too because I had passport photos done this week and they are horrific, ugh).
I also interact with a much broader range of people now as a Mum. Prior to Boy it was work and friends where we all have common ground of one sort or another. Now that common ground can simply be that you have a small person with you. I’m interacting with childcare professionals, other parents, other children aged 0 to 18, teachers, doctors, nurses that I came into contact much more infrequently before. I don’t want Boy to loose out on possible opportunities because my presentation brands me as ‘scruffy’ or ‘up tight’ or ‘high maintenance’ or ‘slob’. I want to be approachable by all those people I now deal with so that I am told what’s going on with Boy and so that I’m not a barrier to him being friends with anyone because the child finds me scary or the parents apply some label. I know I’m never going to please everyone and I’m not trying to do that, I’m simply aware that going to an extreme with a certain style alienates as much as conforming means you get lost in the crowd. My ideal is somewhere in the middle ground; enough personality and individuality that I stand apart but not to the extreme where it puts people off. Clothes as a conversation starter rather than a barrier.
Of course, you lovely bloggers have had an influence as well. Without you I wouldn’t have dared use some of the prints I now love. I wouldn’t be aware of the patterns I turn to over and over again. I wouldn’t be as confident in myself without you. And that makes me a better Mum; because I believe in myself Boy can see that self belief in me and I hope will naturally believe in himself. Wearing dresses makes me feel feminine, the prints make me feel like an individual – there is no one else going to be wearing what I am! And that gives me confidence and because I like what I’m wearing I walk taller, swing my hips and feel more attractive.
Then of course there is the endless subject of conversation that is the weather. I live in East Anglia and I swear we have our own microclimate. Safe to say we experience the whole range of weather but not to the extremes of other areas of the country and certainly not other countries! Occasional snow, occasional heat, lots of temperate weather and rain (although we’re the driest part of the UK apparently?!). Dresses (unless wool) work all year; the main consideration is whether tights and / or a cardigan are required or not. This gives massive scope to the wearability of what I make as it isn’t confined to a set period of the year and honestly the wool dresses do get worn in the summer for formal work stuff. So no seasonal limitations!
So, if I had to summarise my ideal core style it would be:
Suitable for the task
An element of whimsy or fun