Saturday, March 29, 2014

What Sexy is to Me: Thoughts on Beauty and Body Image

It's almost the afternoon and I'm still in the same pj's that I've been wearing for the last 36 hours trying to get over this cold. A perfect time to write about sexiness, no? Anyway, I'm sipping tea and reflecting on a number of things that have been running through my mind related to body image. This is a personal post.

I recently re-tweeted this image. (oh, yeah, I'm tweeting now - @ClioPhineas).

Real vs Ideal??

This is an average size woman holding an average size RTW window mannequin. I have mixed feelings about it. I'm closer to the model than the mannequin in size and shape, but have women in my life that are closer to the mannequin. I'm kind of sick of the "real woman" debate.

I could say a lot about a beauty and fashion industry that promotes a very narrow beauty ideal and an entertainment industry that labels non-slim, non-white, non-young beauty as alternative or "real". Is it any wonder that only 4% of women would describe themselves as beautiful?

Body image is inextricably linked to my feelings about beauty, my style and sex appeal. I have always been curvy; I haven't always loved my curves. When I was in my teens and 20's I struggled with my weight. My hips and thighs are not the Hollywood approved standard and I was always self-conscious about them. Sheaths and pencil skirts were for other people; my strategy for dressing was to camouflage my lower half.

But around 30, my perspective changed thanks to my hobbies. The first time I snorkeled, I was utterly mesmerized.  And I realized that I had been denying myself the pleasure of swimming - an activity I loved up until adolescence - because of my self-consciousness about my weight and shape. It was a moment of reckoning for me.

Did you know that I'm part mermaid on my grandmother's side?

Now I am a certified scuba diver and have even done the unthinkable - posted a picture of myself wearing a bikini. My teen and 20's self would be mortified - MORTIFIED!- by how not Hollywood perfect I look. But I'm getting ahead...

Soon I began to practice yoga and then later to sew and run. Perhaps it had to do with being able to sew clothing that fit and flattered me or with the strong and healthy feeling yoga and running give me, but my relationship with my body fundamentally changed. I became less critical and more appreciative. The mirror became an ally in finding the things I like about myself instead of a critic.

I channeled my inner superhero - Elastigirl!

As I began to feel more comfortable in my own skin, I made a conscious decision to be part of the 4%. You can always spot a woman who feels like she looks beautiful. There is an ease and confidence that amplifies everything about her, and it has almost nothing to do with how she actually looks. For me, beauty has almost nothing to do with the reflection in the mirror and everything to do with the happiness I feel and project. Happiness is beautiful; smiles are beautiful; laughter is beautiful.

Circling back to the beginning of the post, one of the reasons why I dislike the term "real woman" is the unspoken notion that real is in contrast to some ideal. I am ideal. Exactly as I am and without any changes. And so is each of us, whether we see ourselves in the model, the mannequin or whether we are not covered by either.
In my 20's, I never would have worn something close fitting or that showed my hips and thighs, which I thought made me look huge. In the last few years, I decided it's an asset - the 13-14 inch difference  between my waist and hips is sexy. Instead of dressing to camouflage my figure, I've let my figure lead the way with the styles I choose - unfussy, simple silhouettes that don't hide all that much.

Titian's Venus of Urbino - curly haired and curvy

So, what is sexy to me? It's not the difference between my waist and hips; it's that I like and celebrate that difference. It's not that I wear a neckline that others might not dare; it's that I dare it. It's that I smile a lot, think happy thoughts and take pleasure in life. In my very first post about the Sew Sexy Sew Along I said that confidence is the most sexy thing a woman can wear. I truly believe that.

Anyway, all of this is not to say that I have reached any destination or have all the answers. I don't, and there are still occasional days when my thighs seem huge. But I'm on the journey and committed to it. And now I'm about to take myself to the Craft Lounge to begin work on my Sew Sexy lace dress, which will most certainly not hide my hips. 

What about you? What do you think is sexy? Have you ever taken something that was once a source of self-consciousness and turned it into a source of self-confidence? Tell, tell!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sewing update: McQueen Jacket

A horrible cold seems to be hindering my mojo at the moment. Plus, I haven't really had a weekend in three weeks thanks to travel and an avalanche of work. But I am still thinking about and working on my Alexander McQueen Jacket, at least in my head.

Right now, my grey leopard print version - which is destined to be a wearable muslin because of my poor fabric choice - still needs sleeves and has tailors tacks all over. My detailed instructions are still only half written, but mapped out.  

If it sounds like I am losing enthusiasm about the project, don't be alarmed. That's my cold speaking. I just don't do UFO's. And to that end, I've already bought more appropriate fabric for my next version - one of the few sewing "tasks" I could get done while not actually at home.

It's a black and gold Nicole Miller brocade that is 67% Viscose, 20% Silk, 13% Lurex from Fabric Mart.  At times like these - when there is just no time to sew, but sewing is on my mind - I find that I am very susceptible to the lures of on-line fabric sales. And this fabric does have a much better hand - much more crisp - than the leopard print. Fingers crossed.

What about you? What do you do to stay connected with sewing when there is just no time or your mojo is taking a sick day?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sriracha! (Beware the Dragon!)

Oohh, there is much hippo happiness in the Craft Lounge.

Meet Sriracha, who shares Dragon's enthusiasm for photobombing

About a week ago, Dragon the Hippo was in the kitchen rummaging in the pantry for his favorite hot sauce when a cute little purple dragon flew in through an open window to escape the cold outside.

In surprise, Dragon exclaimed "Sriracha!" and the name seems to have stuck.

Isn't she a cutie?

Sriracha is a very young dragon and quite small - she's only about 6" tall, but with a cute pot belly and some fun features. I particularly like her flag-like ears and wings, as well as the bobble spines down her back and tail.

She was very easy to knit up from Susan B Anderson's Little Dragon pattern.  Like her hippo friend, Sriracha was knit on size 5 dpns using sock yarn held double. The only change I made to the rather clever pattern was that I left her arms free instead of connecting them at the fingers. I think it gives her happier body language, if you know what I mean. Dragons are actually rather playful and loyal creatures, like puppies.

Phin picked out the yarn for Sriracha solely based on color and ended up with Toshsock in the Vishnu colorway. Seriously, my man likes the good stuff. But truly it is a beautiful, rich, dragony color and knit up beautifully with nice dense stitches. Like socks, you kind of want your stuffies to be densely stitched so that the stuffing and polypellets can't escape or show through.

Anyway, excitement continues to run high as Dragon teaches Sriracha "all of the important things to know about dragons."

Like Game of Thrones...

Where is Daenerys and her dragons?

And dragon care and training and the great fires set by dragons throughout the ages. Sriracha says that fiddling attracts dragons. Even Milkshake the Cow has gotten in on it, reminding them that cows have been responsible for their fair share of fires, too.

Dragon the Hippo, Sriracha the Dragon and Milkshake the Cow

Anyway, it is all fun and games in the Craft Lounge. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

NY-LON Meet Up: Hey London, Let's Be Friends!

Why isn't nylon a better fabric? Really, if it was, I'd have to coolest name for this post. Instead, it's synthetic. Oh well.

I just got back from a very busy business trip to London and have that place on the brain. So, it seems like a good day for this...

A few months ago, a few of my fellow NY area sewists and I were fantasizing about what the ultimate sewing/sewing blogger meet up would look like. New York and London figured prominently on the guest list. From there it wasn't much of a leap to propose a NY-LON meet up in London. Call it the American invasion.

Dragon Hippo and a new friend are already preparing.

Soooo... we're coming.. the weekend of May 16/17/18!

Right now the NY group is yours truly, Devviepuu of Puu's Door of Time, Jennifer of Workroom Social, and (possibly, if work allows) Oonaballoona. The always amazing Rachel Pinheiro has graciously offered to be our London-based hostess with the most-est!  So, mark your calendar and buy a plane ticket. This shindig is open to all. (Seriously, shoot us an email if you are interested - we are open to all geographies!)

The Great Fire of London: Fascinating to the fire-breathing set

We all really hope you will join!

PS - Dragon Hippo will be introducing his new little friend as soon as he can calm down enough to write a post and I can get over my jet lag.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Start Your (Sexy) Sewing Machines! Fabric Choices and My Plans

It's Day 1 of the Sew Sexy Sew Along!

March 9- April 14

I hope you're all geared up for some sexy sewing! Unfortunately for me, this week is a no-sew since I'm on the road for work. But of course, I'm plotting and planning.

I was thinking about fabric for this project that can be connected with romance or sexiness. Silk is a sensual pleasure for both the wearer and the observer.  Leather is also sexy but in a very different way - it conveys confidence, power and eroticism.

Don't I Look Confident and Powerful?  ha ha ha

And then there is lace, the demure, romantic fabric. Lace can be pretty, sweet and innocent or even old fashioned and a bit mumsy (yes, I said it: Julia Roberts looked matronly on Oscar night). But if leather is a one night stand and silk is a seductress, then, at it's best and most sexy, lace is eternal and passionate true love.

Now, I know there are some who will be disappointed that I'm leaving the leather to one of my co-hosts. I think the other may go for something silky.  I've decided to tackle lace - a challenge since I'm just not into florals and prettiness. That said, there are more modern takes on lace out there that have more sex appeal. Case in point: the kimono robe I sewed from an animal print lace:

Not your granny's bathrobe

For the sew along, I found a Vince Camuto stretch lace at Paron Fabrics. I love that it has an organic, but not floral, feel.

My plan is to make it into a curve hugging dress. One possible pattern is this:

V1314 - A Tracy Reese Pattern that I've sewn as a tunic and then as a dress.

However, I may do some sort of Frankenpattern since I'm still enjoying how well V8670 fit at the bust both as a tee and the BCBG knock off version. I would add a skirt portion to make it a dress.

I could potentially do sheer sleeves and then a lace body, sort of like this Burdastyle number from Nov 2013 (minus applique, plus lace body).

Anyway, that's where I am today.  What do you think of my plans?  Could this be sexy?  What are your sexy sewing plans?  Or if you are simply a voyeur for this sew along, what are you working on?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

McQueen Jacket Update

Several hours last weekend were spent hunched over my Alexander McQueen jacket pieces and instructions.

Mid-afternoon on Saturday, I mostly figured things out.

Then on Sunday afternoon, I had a breakthrough - something that made all the pieces make sense and come together like magic. Every mark and notch lined up perfectly. The pleats were exactly as they should be. And it made me realize, not for the first time, the genius of Alexander McQueen and how sad it is that his life was so tragically short. This is a brilliant and beautiful pattern.

So, I've scrapped the instructions for the back pleating that came with the pattern and reordered them to a way that makes more sense to me.  I just can't stand not knowing how a specific step contributes to the end result.  Also, there are a few nuances that I think the bare bones instructions miss a little bit.Anyway, I have a few more fine points to work out so my revised instructions may take a little while.

As for my actual jacket, I'm on the home stretch. But I've realized that my fabric is a fail; it is simply too soft and dense for the pleating. It isn't going to do justice to the pattern. I will finish it, but as a wearable muslin to add some fun to jeans and casual outfits. I'm already shopping for fabric for my ultimate version.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sew Sexy: Pattern Inspiration

Well. It's been a busy week; I'm way behind on Sew Sexy Sew Along (SSS-along or Triple S along?) posts. But I hope you've been following the fabulous designer inspiration posts that Nettie has been putting up over at Sown Brooklyn.

I think my favorite styles that she posted are the Alexander McQueen plunging tuxedo dress...

Alexander McQueen

And Victoria Beckham's leather waspie/obi belt.

Victoria Beckham

You wouldn't need much of a pattern to knock off the waspie, and you could create a similar look as the McQueen tux with Vogue1265, a Pamela Roland lab coat-style dress.

Speaking of patterns, the whole sss-along endeavor originated with an acknowledgement about a year ago that sewing patterns tend to err on the side of very modest.  Whither the sexy patterns?, asked Suzanne of Beau Baby. It's true. Until recently, sewing patterns have been rather buttoned up. Even in evening wear, necklines showing off a little decollete have been few and far between.

Sexy is subjective, but I think there are options - more now that when Suzanne posted. Vogue's designer patterns have some gems and BurdaStyle magazine has too many to name. (Vogue is having a $5.99 sale March 4-6, btw.)

BurdaStyle 01/2012 #125

But other pattern companies have gotten in on the act with a few sultry offerings - Marfy, Named and By Hand London to name a few.  Ralph Pink, with his array of corsetry and urban style oozes sex appeal.

Ralph Pink's sexy take on a buttoned up shirt

If you want sexy lingerie patterns, look no further than Lekala.

There are even a few free designer downloads over at ShowStudio.

I found so many potentially sexy patterns that I started pinning away: Click here for my Sew Sexy Inspiration Board.

So, yes, there are more options. However, I think you can make a not obviously sexy pattern into a very sexy garment. For example, I took Vogue 8670, a raglan tee...

Added some illusion mesh and made this top....

Date Night top

And in the spring, I took the very popular Vogue peplum top...

Vogue 8815

... added some faux leather and made...

Madam Clio's Peplum

...this top.

So, really, with some minor changes and some interesting fabric, lots of patterns can be sexy. I also think that how you style something makes a big difference - think about a classic black sheath dress. With high heels, glam make up and eye catching accessories, it can be a very sexy look, and yet with more staid shoes and plain accessories, it can be played down.  Also, fit is important - the right hemline and a more body conscious fit can transform a pattern.

A great example of this is Mimi G's version of B5985.  She took this:


And - with a little fabric, fitting and accessory magic - made it into this:

Another sewist who constantly glams up ordinary patterns with smart fabric, fitting and accessories is Nikki of Beaute' J'adore. I hope you will check both of them out.

Anyway, at this point, maybe you're wondering what I'll be sewing. I haven't 100% decided yet, but I'm leaning toward a not overtly sexy pattern done in a sexy way. But we'll see...

Any thoughts on what you might sew? Any patterns to add that you think ooze sex appeal?