Friday, July 29, 2011

Elements of Style

Do you think about your style? I'd never really given mine much thought before I sewed. There were clothes that appealed to me, styles that I thought were flattering on, and colors that I liked or disliked, but that was about as far as I got with following fashion or trends. And I always had to contend with what RTW fit me and, early in my career, shopping on a limited budget.

However, I've been putting a lot more thought into what I wear in the few years since I began sewing and, recently, even giving more thought to exploring and cultivating my own style. This all started when I realized that orange was secretly my favorite color, and had been for years. It was a very liberating revelation!

I like bold colors...
I think I've done pretty well sewing garments that suit me and that are realistic for my lifestyle. I've tackled some projects that address some needs and built my skills - like trousers for work. But these haven't necessarily helped me explore or cultivate my style. And lately I'm evolving and experimental. Not that I want to be outlandish, but I haven't exactly wanted to blend in either. I find a little bit of fashion risk taking to be exhilarating and rewarding. At heart, I see this all as part of an ongoing exploration of my personality.

... I like pushing my boundaries...

I've also decided that I like being a little over-dressed. After I finished high school and ended 12 years of wearing a navy or grey pleated skirt 5 days a week (aka Catholic school girl fashion purgatory), it was wonderful to live in jeans. But now I'm swinging the other way. I always find myself admiring women who wear dresses, particularly sheath dresses. I've had sheath dress envy for years! But since my top and bottom are different sizes, separates have always been more practical, and sheath dresses have never been a look I could achieve in RTW. I also want to wear more skirts.

...And I always feel chic in a dress
Anyway, I feel like I'm at a point with sewing where I can make the things that I want. I'm nowhere near being able to sew all of it, but sewing the cornerstone pieces that I can build a wardrobe around and really define my style seems within reach.

So, because I do well when I define goals for myself, here are three goals:
First, I will continue to explore and experiment with my style. I will take some risks and do it with confidence.

Next, I will wear/sew more dresses. And skirts.

Finally, and most important, I will be thoughtful about what I sew, taking into account how each project helps cultivate my style or not, and how it relates to my wardrobe.

I feel like I'm just scratching the surface here. There are a number of topics I'm mulling over including personal vs. professional style, how body type relates to style, and others. I hope you will stay tuned.Have a great weekend! I plan on muslining the top of my jumpsuit, so look out for it next week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tipsy Fruits

First, thanks to everyone who commented on my border print pants. I've decided they deserve a "yea" - or really a "Yaaay!!!!"  I may have to buy a dramatic black hat and take a vacation on the Riviera just to make the outfit complete. And thanks, too, for the endorsement of the jumpsuit. Clearly, I've got some sort of experimental phase going on fashion-wise at the moment, and I'm really thrilled to be indulged.

Speaking of experiments, I embarked on a kitchen experiment over the weekend.  At this time of year, I literally have to walk through a farmers market to make my way home on Thursdays. One of the stalls - Vacchiano Farms - is run by a family that Phineas grew up with, and they always point us to what is freshest, ripest, etc. It's good to know your farmer!

So, I've been overindulging in fruit for the last month, and last week it escalated into a crisis of my stomach not being able to keep up with my purchasing (I gave myself a tummy ache long before the fruit ran out). To preserve my hoard of lovely ripe beauties, I decided to give in to vice, buy some mason jars and "can" my fruit. It crossed my mind to make some jam, but traditional canning is sweaty work involving sterilization and such. So, I decided it would be cooler and easier to use a high-octane canning solution: vodka! I also used rum and brandy.

Here's the very simple "recipe":

Load your cut up fruit with some sugar (a few tbsp) and lemon peel (optional) into clean mason jars.

Cover with the liquor of your choice. Thump the jar a few times to get any air bubbles out and let the fruit settle.

Screw on caps and store in a cool, dim pantry. Done!

Since the alcohol kills any bacteria, this is pretty foolproof as far as preservation methods go. The hardest part is cutting up all the fruit. Oh, and the waiting.  Your tipsy fruit will be best in about 3-6 months, but really they'll be pretty tasty in 6 weeks.

I made a bunch of combinations - peach + brandy, strawberry + vodka, sugar plum + rum, cherries + brandy, and mixed berry + vodka. Really, just about any fruit or combination of fruits with any alcohol of choice will work.

Serving options are endless: dribbled over ice cream or pound cake, as the fruit in sangria (white or red), baked into muffins, cakes or tarts (the alcohol will cook off in the oven, but leave a nice flavor behind), in a trifle or fool, flambeed as cherries jubilee, churned into frozen yogurt - or cherry-vanilla ice cream!, as the garnish for a mixed drink, or use the liquor in an aperitif or spritzer.... see, there is no end of good ways to use up your drunken fruit.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Burda Flowered Border Print Pants: Yea or Nay?

Well, here they are: my Burda elastic waist pull-on pants (Burda 6/2011 - 114) in a very fun border print. I knew there was risk involved in making flowered pants. So, I'm interested for your thoughts on how they came out. Would you wear these out of the house?

Here I am feeling all jazzed

I did. I wore them today to a small family get together to celebrate my mom's birthday. I felt pretty jazzed about them when I left home, but midway through the day I started wondering if that was a symptom of the extreme heat we've been having in the northeast. Are they too much?

On the plus side, I really love the border print - it's just so fun! It's a nice cool cotton underlined in a very light batiste - cool and crisp. And I felt fun and cool on such a humid hot day. Also, this Burda pattern is a real winner. I've made pull-on pants/pj's before (both KwikSew and Amy Butler patterns) and the fit in them was terrible - really baggy legs and a ridiculously long crotch. But not these ones! They fit exactly like I would want. The only changes I made are that I belled out from knee to hem to show off more of the border and I took the hip-to-waist in just a tiny bit.

I can't help but feel that these are really kind of fun, carefree and perfect for hot days, the beach and my upcoming cruise vacation. But maybe I like them because of the great fit and the cool comfort they allow. Phin gave them a thumbs up, but part of me is a little nervous that I look like an extra in a disco-era movie or that I look like I should be hosting a children's television show. What do you think?

Update: Apologies! I got so caught up in mulling over the fabric that I forgot to mention a few key points!
  • I also omitted the pockets from this pattern since I can't stand pocket show-thru on white pants and also didn't want any extra bulk at the hips. 
  • I underlined using the Hong Kong seam method where you underline and finish the seams all in one swoop. It was easy and worked beautifully! The inside of these pants look so very nicely finished!
  • I plan to make these pants again, although I may return the leg width back to normal. I think these would be great in a cosy knit as loungewear or in a silk as a dressy pant.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Next Two Projects: Part 2 or How Fashion Decisions are Made at Casa Clio

My Burda border print pants are underway. I'm really not willing to spend much time muslin-ing an elastic waist pants that are meant to have a loose, relaxed fit. But I love the fabric, which is semi-sheer. So, rather than just cutting into it blind, I'm using the cotton batiste underlining as a muslin. If I don't like the fit or it needs significant alterations, I'll scrap the project before cutting into the fashion fabric.

After these pants, my next project will be another possibly controversial garment: a jumpsuit

V1249: Mark & James (Badgley Mischka) Jumpsuit

Jumpsuits are polarizing. Before deciding on this project, I sought guidance from the Muse fashion committee. Here's the 5-way email exchange - a little slice of how important fashion decisions are made here at the Five Muses blog. 

Ladies, important question: 
This Badgley Mischka jumpsuit pattern
- have I lost my mind or might this be cute? On me? I'm thinking this would be perfect for the cruise or another dressy but relaxed occasion - worn with espadrilles and a huge necklace perhaps. NOT in white. But it's entirely possible that the whole Badgley Mischka-ness of it is clouding my judgement. Thoughts please: yea or nay?
Love, Clio 
And here are the responses from the Muses (unedited; emphasis theirs not mine): 
Terp:  I'm not a fan of jumpsuits but I think it would look cute on you!
Magenta:  I am uncertain.  Not helpful I understand.  I'd like to say no immediately upon reading jumpsuit - because 'they' say, if you were there for the trend the first time, sit it out the second time.  I wore many a jumpsuit in the early 90s.  Still, I can't quite bring myself to say no.  I kind of like it.  And it could go well. I think.  Maybe. I am very interested to hear what you ladies have to say to this one.
Dr K: Really. I'm unsure too... But my first impression when I saw it was - that could be really cute. I also try to do the thing 'they' say about being around the first time. But, that would also include leggings and tunics, and clearly we're all okay with that. I think a modern take is perfectly acceptable.
Poly: I like it!  And I think you would look good in it because it would show off your shoulders, neck and collar bones nicely.  Plus, the pants look like they have just the right amount of fullness.  Nice drape - not baggy or clingy.  But you'd definitely need a nice belt.  I envision a cool leather obi or other wide band belt.  And bangle bracelets!  Although I couldn't wear one (I couldn't pull it off), I think you would look great in it.  I say yes!  A great option for the cruise! 

Magenta: You know what?  I'm totally on board too!
Dr K: Yeah. I'm on board too. I think I got stuck on 'jumpsuit'. I should have just gone with my first instinct which was 'thats really cute.' we overthink sometimes!
So, although the committee is not going to be donning jumpsuits themselves any time soon, they reached a consensus and are willing to let me grab crazy by the horns and just go with it. LOL. What is it about jumpsuits?  I definitely turned my nose up at them the last time this trend came around. But now, I'm thinking that this could be fun. And it will be my first project involving boning. So, another skill to master.

I've started assembling notions and scoped out some beautiful rayon matte jersey at Mood in that bold orange shade that I just love. Then I had an awful revelation...

Gwen Stefani in No Doubt's video for "It's My Life"
It could seriously end up looking like a prison jumpsuit. Yikes. But I really love the orange. And I'm feeling inspired by the Norma Kamali parachute dress posted on the Colette Patterns blog the other day (fierce, no?). I think if you're going to wear a jumpsuit, you really have to own it. So, wish me luck with this one. Ha!

What are your thoughts on jumpsuits in general and on whether mine, in orange, will be advisable or not? Will I end up looking fierce and fabulous, or will this end up being a Lindsay Lohan Halloween costume?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Instant Gratification Sewing: Yoga Mat Bag

From cut to done in an afternoon. Just what the doctor yogi ordered!

The pattern is from Simple Sewing by Lotta Jansdotter. I made the bag a bit larger than her version to accommodate my thicker-than-standard, knee-friendly mat.  The new bag isn't as rugged as the first one I made a few years ago with a home dec fabric, but I think it will get me from home to ohm in style.

Namaste, everyone! 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vogue 1042 Seersucker Garden Party Dress: Final Reveal!

Well, here I am heading off to my good friend Magenta's shower. It was a champagne tasting in the Maid of Honor's back yard - a fun summer garden party. It was a fantastic day.

There are only a few things that I would do differently next time. Cidell's comment about using a bra pattern to help adjust the bodice was a great suggestion, and one I will surely use with any future bustier style tops. This dress was not difficult to sew, but it was challenging to fit. That said, I'm pretty pleased with the final outcome. Thanks to all of you who made suggestions and comments along the way. Really, this dress became much more of a project than I anticipated, and it would not have come together without all your help and comments. 

Pattern Review here!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Little Break From Fitting

How do you rate the success of a sewing project? If you are of the mindset that a project is most successful when it becomes a go-to item that lasts over time, then one of my most successful projects of all time is the bag I made for my yoga mat, 3 1/2 years ago. Not only was it one of my very early sewing projects, but I've been using this bag several times a week since then, and it's still in great shape.  

Summer is a more relaxed time for me at work, and I've been finding the time, once or twice a week, to make it to a yoga class at lunchtime. So, now I have two mats - one for the office and one for home/gym - but only one bag. And after the marathon that was my seersucker dress (hemming WILL be finished tonight!), I think I need a little break from fitting. In fact, it would be excellent to have a project that I could start and finish in one day, more or less.

So, before I tackle my border print Burda pants, I'm sewing a very easy yoga mat bag - the exact same pattern as last time - in this fabric, which is a remnant from an early project:

I swear I am going to avoid doing any alterations or enhancements that will add to the length or difficulty of this project, as seems to be my habit.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

All but the hem...

How many times in life - and sewing - can you say, "Wow, that was easier than I thought"?

Not too often, but lining my dress turned out to be one of those things. Easy!

That proved to be a very very good thing since, immediately after lining the dress, I tried it on and the bust gaped horribly. I have no explanation for how this happened after all my careful fitting.So, I had to un-sew the lining (thank goodness I hadn't understitched yet!) take in a few seams, and re-sew the lining. The second time was even easier than the first.

Also, I liked the topstitching around the cups/bust area so much that I even decided that rather than understitch the lining, I would just topstitch around the neckline and arms. I think it looks really good.

So, now all that is left to do is hem, which I will do by hand during the week. I plan to wear the dress to a good friend's shower on Saturday, so final reveal - all accessorized and whatnot - then.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Q: How long does it take to serge all 8 seams of a skirt and it's lining?

A: Longer than you'd think, at least if you are me.

But it was very good practice with my serger. Slow and careful was my mantra, and I think I'm finally getting the hang of chaining off the ends.

I'm really coming down the home stretch on this dress. And I think it looks great in seersucker. Honestly, this was a bigger project than I thought it would be. But that's ok. I'm enjoying the process nonetheless.  

The big tasks left are dropping in the lining and adding the invisible zipper. I've never lined a dress before, so it may be a bit of an adventure.

I hope you had a fun and productive weekend, and enjoyed some fireworks!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Elements of Style: Does Beauty Matter?

Earlier this week, I was drafting a post on exploring/cultivating my style, when I came across this article on how to talk to little girls.

The gist of the article is that, in general, our first impulse when meeting a little girl is to tell her how very cute/pretty/princessy/adorable/etc she is, and that this teaches girls that how they look is more important in society than any other aspect of who they are - their intelligence, talents or personality. The author connects the dots between this early focus on appearance and our cultural fixation on and pursuit of unrealistic beauty ideals and all of the self esteem issues and other problems associated with it.

Even Dora the Explorer caved to Disney Princess Mania

This got me thinking about looks - whether they matter, why they matter and where to draw a line between vanity, cultural expectations/societal pressures, and good self esteem. I'm not 100% in agreement with the author. I think that strong parenting can do a lot to counter-balance cultural pressures and develop healthy self esteem in both girls and boys. But I do get her point. When Dora the Explorer adds "Princess" to her name and Bratz Dolls are popular for young girls, well, that's a lot of pressures to contend with. 

Bratz Dolls: At least Barbie's lip liner matched her lip stick.

Case in point: I have a niece who I am close with - Miss J - who just turned 13. Miss J is an A student who has a nice group of friends (all "good girls") and a range of activities including chorus and lacrosse. She is currently fighting with her mom over getting a push-up bra. Despite being a normal, healthy weight, she's also shown an increased concern with dieting and her weight lately. 

All of this got me thinking about women and beauty and whether looks are important. I care about my appearance and, generally speaking, I'm happy with the reflection in the mirror. I can't deny it: I do own a push up bra or two, along with many others. For me, taking care of my appearance is part of caring about my person, which is part of how I maintain good self-esteem. And at the end of the day, how we present ourselves to the world affects not only how we are perceived in both social and professional spheres, but often indicates how we feel about ourselves.What kind of role model does this make me?

For little girls, playing with makeup is fun, but where is the line between little girls playing grown up and little girls actually wearing makeup and believing this is something that they need to do to look pretty? Or, that they need push up bras? How do we protect girls from thinking that their looks are the most important thing about them, while at the same time helping them to embrace the reflection in the mirror and care for themselves? How do you teach a girl that the definition of beauty is far too narrow and too artificial?  Where is the healthy balance?

Harmless, girly fun?

Perhaps I was sheltered from much of this because of my own mother. She could have been an "Ivory Girl". During my childhood she didn't wear any cosmetics, jewelry or high heels. She always told me and my sisters how pretty we were, but she did not allow us to grow up fast. I remember the year long campaign my sister, Calliope, and I had to wage before we were allowed to get our ears pierced.

There were times when I had wished that my mom was a better role model and teacher for how to dress or put together an outfit, how to do my makeup and hair, and so on. But, in retrospect, I think perhaps she may have been an even better role model for not teaching me these things; for not placing an outsized importance on appearance. Even as an awkward and chubby teen, in most regards my self esteem was pretty good. I was smart, I had great friends, I excelled academically and I had lots of activities that I was good at.

It wasn't until my early 20's that I began to have a sneaking suspicion that I might perhaps actually be pretty. To be perfectly honest, I think I went away to college an ugly duckling and came home a bit more swan-like. I was a late bloomer that way. And now I feel like I've really hit my stride beauty-wise in my 30's. It would be a lie for me to say that I don't like the skin I'm in. However, feeling like I am an accomplished person with interesting hobbies (sewing! baking!) and that I am strong and fit (running! yoga!) probably has more to do with feeling beautiful, than how I actually look does. I think I project what's inside. 

So, this brings me back to where I stared this post - personal style and the image I want to project. There is no question that I think more about my appearance since I began sewing. But I didn't come to sewing because of any insecurity with my looks. If anything, I am more comfortable and confident in my looks, and I think I deserve clothing that fits me beautifully and reflects how I feel about myself. Only it seems more complicated now. How do I be beautiful and be a good role model for loving oneself as is?

Readers, I'm not sure where I'm going with this. But I welcome your own thoughts on it - beauty, little girls, sewing and how this all affects us. (And you are free to disagree with me and tell me I'm a hag. My self esteem can take it. Ha!)