Me-Made-May ’17: Wrap-Up

Now that I’ve logged my two sewing projects from May and cleared some space mentally, I’m ready to review my Me-Made-May experience. I know we’re more than halfway through June and the sewing blogosphere has moved on already, but you’ll humor me, right? You’re the best. 🙂

Except for one missed day during Week 3, I kept to my goal of wearing at least four me-made garments each week. (Then again, the last week of May didn’t have four days in it, but I managed two me-mades anyway, so I’m calling it a wash.) There were definitely repeated garments, but no completely repeated outfits, which is a feat I didn’t think I’d be able to pull off, especially since I tend to go through phases of wanting to reach for whatever feels easiest or most comfortable at the time, over and over again.

Though I didn’t end up posting weekly here as I’d thought I would, and though I still can’t get on board with Instagram—I’m a words person through and through—I did take photos every day that I wore a me-made garment so that I’d be able to spot trends, reflect on silhouettes, and identify wardrobe gaps.

Week 1: Active in Aqua Workout Top & Pants // Mashion Cardigan & Black Leggings (unblogged) // Black Leggings (unblogged) // Easy Tartan Scarf

Week 2: So In Love Cardigan (on Ravelry) // Sage Pleated Skirt & Holden Shawlette (on Ravelry) // Sunbird Shawl (on Ravelry) // Floral Sorbetto

Week 3: Haruni and the Tree of Stories Shawl (on Ravelry) // Vanilla Skirt // Pumped Up in Pink Workout Top & Pants

Week 4: Rings of Ouranos (on Ravelry) // Easy Tartan Scarf // White T-Shirt // Black Leggings (unblogged)

Week 5: Floral Sorbetto // White T-Shirt

Seeing everything laid out like this, I’ve realized several things:

  • I wear a lot of black. (I wore even more than you see here, on days when I didn’t wear any me-mades.) I don’t actually want to wear as much black as I do, because I find it looks quite harsh against my skin, especially near my face. But since I bought most of my office attire during a few major shopping trips during and immediately after college, and I’ve neither grown out of nor worn through most of it, those initial purchases continue to linger in my closet. I’d really like to phase them out in favor of more navy blue, warm browns, and even some grey, but options in those colors tend to be more miss than hit most seasons at the few stores I shop. I need to either a) expand my shopping horizons and try other petite -friendly retailers besides Express, b) find a tailor I can trust to alter pants from regular misses sizes , or c) learn to sew my own perfectly fitting pants. At this point, I’m not actually sure which of these is the path of least resistance.
  • I’m grateful that the May weather was so variable, because a sizable chunk of my handmade wardrobe comes in the form of handknit accessories. I’m complete okay with this, but could stand to add a few more sweaters, particularly cardigans of various weights, to the mix. There’s absolutely zero chance you’ll find me in handknits in the summer, though—it’s unbearably hot and humid here, and wool, no matter how magical its properties, will never feel good on a 100-degree, 100-percent-humidity-but-somehow-no-rain day.
  • I’ve been gravitating toward skinny bottoms balanced with looser tops. I need to make more of both.
  • I only wore one dress (with leggings) and one skirt (with tights). I’d say dresses and skirts were underrepresented this month, but only barely. I can probably chalk this up to the fact that most of my dresses, me-made and ready-to-wear, are too casual even for my laid back office. My office is also freezing, so I’d just end up covered in a fleece blanket at my desk anyway. But I love the idea of pulling on secret pajamas a comfortable dress and rolling out in the morning, so maybe I need to suck it up and make a dress or two.
  • My outfits are dying for more texture. My wardrobe is overwhelmingly simple, solid-colored separates, which means that outfits tend to fall flat visually. They’re crying out for a statement necklace or shoes, a cute handbag, a textured fabric like bouclĂ© or suede, or a textural design element like pleats, pintucks, ruffles, or visible ribbing. Anything to break up all the solid blocks of color and smooth fabric surfaces.

These observations open up a lot of different creative directions, and it’s so tempting to try to run down every path at once. But I’m going to try to rein myself in and remember that neither a handmade wardrobe nor a strong sense of personal style happens over night (especially since recent household budgetary constraints have me limited to my existing stash, which may not jive with my current seasonal/situational needs).

Despite feeling like my current wardrobe is a long way off from my ideal, participating in Me-Made-May has convinced me that it’s not impossible for me, personally, to one day have a wardrobe where I could wear at least one thing I made every day, if I wanted to. I don’t know that I’ll ever achieve—or even aim for—an entirely handmade wardrobe, but it’s gratifying to see that what I’ve made with my own two hands takes more than two hands to count!

Just for fun, because I’ve secretly wanted to do this every year that I’ve followed along with Me-Made-May, here’s a gif of my outfits each day:

Me-Made-May ’17: My Pledge

What’s this?

I, Caitlyn of Practice Makes Pretty, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’17. I endeavor to wear a self-made garment at least four days of each week for the duration of May 2017.

That’s right. No more sitting on the sidelines while this great maker community supports, encourages, and celebrates one another. No more watching the parade of lovely handmade garments and accessories and lamenting my own lack of me-mades. No more hollow self-consolation, telling myself “I’ll be ready next year.”

I want in, and I don’t want to wait any more. Time to stop holding myself back.

Am I ready? I don’t think so, not yet. But I will be. I know that Zoe is firmly opposed to panic-sewing, but as she points out in her MMM’17 announcement, “if you want to use taking part in the challenge as the kick in the butt you need to finally hem that half-finished skirt, or rework an ill-fitting garment, then great.” I’d like to think this includes projects that you have the materials for and want to make, but haven’t started yet.

So, during the month of April, I’m (unofficially) committing to carving out time every day to work through as many of my queued patterns and stashed fabrics as I can. I’ve had garments lingering on my to-make list for months, just waiting for me to sit down and sew. But I’m extremely susceptible to indulging the thrill of planning and the borrowed satisfaction of imagining a finished project, then not following through. So I’m done planning. There is no plan, just sewing. (And knitting.) With a focus on finding joy in the process, and on placing more value in the fact that I finished something than the fact that the thing is good.

Consider the fire lit.

Maker Moment: Make Do and Mend

Throughout the late fall, winter, and early spring months, I live in Express Columnist pants and basic V-neck sweaters for work. Each year I’ve purchased one or two new colors of each, so that now I can go about a week and a half wearing nothing but that uniform before needing to do laundry. The constant wearing and washing eventually takes its toll, however, and over the years I’ve had to mend the occasional dropped hem or split seam.

At some point this past year, I started to let the mending slide. A hidden button came loose, and instead of immediately reattaching it, I put it in a safe place and set the pants aside, intending to deal with them before the next wash. Instead, as soon as I was at the bottom of the drawer and in need of something to wear, I pulled the pants back into rotation, deciding that the button wasn’t really needed anyway and I’d fix it after they’d gone through the wash.

You can see where this is going.

Soon, I found myself pinning up the dropped hem of a pair slacks every time I wore them, each time telling myself that I’d get to them just as soon as they were clean and pressed again. It was important to me that I didn’t look sloppy, but apparently not important enough to take the time to fix the problem properly. Meanwhile, more buttons popped off, pocket bags frayed open, and one by one my sweaters developed holes in the underarms. My pile of to-be-mended garments kept growing, until it started to feel like there were more items in it than out of it. (Not really true, but it certainly felt that way when that’s where all of my most-worn garments were living.)

During the winter’s first (and quite likely only) snowfall, I decided there was no better way to spend a house-bound afternoon than finally buckling down and doing the mending. And as soon as I settled in with needle and thread, I was reminded of how much I actually enjoy hand-sewing. Others may find it tedious, but I find the slow, meticulous, and repetitive nature of the work soothing, especially when accompanied with a hot mug of tea.

In a couple of hours, I was able to hem two pant legs, close up three pocket bags, and repair holes in five sweaters, including invisibly fixing a hole in the middle of a sleeve by grafting the edges closed. When I finally tied off the last thread and announced my success, Justin quipped, “It’s like you have a whole new wardrobe!” When I mentioned my project to a coworker, she had the exact same reaction.

A bit of a stretch? Sure. But they captured the spirit of the thing, which is that giving life back to your favorite garments—whether it’s by mending them or by some other trick, like upcycling—gives you the thrill of “having things to wear,” with the added bonus that you did it yourself.

Have you shown any of your favorite garments, me-made or otherwise, a little love lately? They’ll pay you back for the effort, I promise.

The Only Way Out Is Through

As the parade of year-end wrap-ups has streamed through my feed this week, I’ve felt a mounting pressure to sit down and compose my own thoughts. This pressure stems not from a desire to emulate or perform for others, but from a very real need to confront my own experiences and realizations from the last 12 months. I have a much different perspective than I’d hoped to have, and I want to acknowledge and explore the gap between expectations and reality.

That I’m able to write at all is due in no small part to my thoughtful husband, who gifted me with a tablet this year for Christmas. My desktop computer suffered a motherboard failure just after Thanksgiving, and in the flurry of end-of-year work deadlines, Christmas hosting preparations, and holiday spending, I had neither the time to research nor the ready funds to purchase a replacement board. All of my recent outfit photos had been transferred from phone to hard drive just before the failure, so they have been held hostage by the broken component.

I’m thankful that a new motherboard is, as of today, on its way to me, but the delay means that there’s no chance at all of posting our Halloween costumes or the dress I made for my work Christmas party before the year is out. I haven’t decided yet whether it’s worthwhile to post them so long after the fact, or if I’d rather move on to new projects and new topics. Only the new year will tell, I suppose.

Those three missing posts mean that there is very little in the way of finished garments to recap. But even if I’d been able to include them, I’m well aware that my output this year has been disappointing. While others can count their successes in the dozens or scores, I have fewer than ten, and the amount of wear that any of them have gotten is extremely limited. In fact, shortly after finishing all of the athletic wear, I stopped going to the gym completely and haven’t been back since. I wish I could say that this is the result of an unfortunate injury that needed recovery or a positive lifestyle change that eliminated the need for scheduled exercise, but the fact is it’s all down to a short period of stress followed by laziness and finally inertia.

Knitting has not escaped this stagnation, either. This has been my least productive year in the short time since I started knitting. The striped sweater I started a year ago remains unfinished, awaiting a time when I have the mental fortitude to rip out and re-knit both sleeve caps, then finally sew the thing up, knit on the neckband, and weave in the ends. A scarf that I allowed myself to start to alleviate the tedium of the sweater and to provide a bit of mindless, portable knitting needs no more than a bind off and a few ends woven in, and yet it languishes in a bag. I even permitted myself to buy two skeins of yarn for easy hats in a desperate bid to kickstart my knitting enthusiasm, but I never made it further than winding them into cakes.

Needless to say, I did not sew or knit more this year. While I did read through all of The Modern Natural Dyer, the only dyeing I actually did involved a bottle of RIT. We made a tiny bit of headway on fixing up our guest room, but nothing worth writing about or photographing. As for a dedicated sewing space, I consolidated all of my fabrics, tools, and notions in a corner of the living room, which was hardly the plan, but is an acceptable temporary arrangement while I continue to use the dining room table to cut and sew on.

In short, I did not reach any of my goals for 2016. Not even close.

I’m hardly the only one, of course. But I seem unable to brush it off, like Kat, who doesn’t believe in failure as a concept; or even take pride in how I’ve flouted my goals, like Tassadit, who clearly knows how to prioritize joy over success. It’s not in my nature to pretend that I believe that it’s all been “a learning experience,” because in truth my first reaction to defeat is not optimism, it’s disappointment and sadness. So instead of putting on a falsely brave front, I’m going to take a cue from a recent post by Klara from A Robot Heart—who feels like a kindred spirit, half a world away—and delve into why it’s been so difficult to reflect on my year and shine a light in places that often remain dark.

It’s about more than completed and incomplete tasks.

On the surface of it, I love making lists, and I find satisfaction in checking things off. An unfinished to-do list would obviously be a source of dissatisfaction. But if it were truly that simple, if all that mattered was getting things done eventually, then all I’d need to do is deem all of those 2016 goals ongoing, and carry on into 2017 striving toward the same things. No reason to set an arbitrary deadline—or even an arbitrary check-in point—if all it does is cause unhappiness, right?

The trouble is, I crave organization because I need it to think clearly, act confidently, and feel at peace. Because despite being the kind of person who loathes idleness, when I’m presented with a variety of activities to choose from, I don’t tend to feel excitement at the many possibilities, I tend to feel anxiety. I’m liable to become overwhelmed and shut down completely, because I a) want to do everything at once, b) know that that’s impossible, and c) no longer have a reliable sense of what will make me happy in the moment.

So I make lists, because it allows me to prepare, to plan in advance, when emotions aren’t high and I can be more certain of knowing my own mind. Then I not only get the satisfaction of the thing itself, but also the reassurance that I’m doing something I know is important to me in some way.

Looking back, each unaccomplished goal represents hours spent agonizing over what to do in the evening or on a weekend. Too often, instead of working toward the things I had determined were important to me, I retreated into reading forum discussions, or distracted myself with some insignificant task, or sat paralyzed until Justin proposed some other thing to do. How many Friday nights did I fret about spending my weekend wisely? How many Sunday nights did I despair about going back to work, feeling like I’d squandered my time and would have to slog through five more days to try again? Far too many, I’m afraid.

The experience of correcting mistakes is a poor teacher for coping with failures.

Like many makers, I turn to the creative community when I need guidance—not just for sewing or knitting techniques, but for conscious consumerism, for body positivity and self-love, and for any number of other topics. Makers are no strangers to adversity, and it’s cheering to read about others’ struggles and how they’ve overcome them.

But as I’ve been thinking about my failed goals, I can think of many bloggers who have shared their mistakes, but I’m struggling to bring to mind bloggers who have shared their failures. What I mean is, I can think of countless posts describing a project that disappointed due to a mismatch of pattern to material, or an outfit that was never worn because of unacceptable fit, and even garments that were thrown away—all things I would consider mistakes, things where you think “That was a shame; I’ll try to do better next time.” But failures, like investing a lot of time, money, and effort into a hobby that you ultimately abandon? Or committing to a project for someone else, as a gift or perhaps as a commission, and then being unable to see it through to the end? Or chasing a creative dream that doesn’t pan out and having to give it up? Basically, anything where there may not be a “next time”? Not so much.

Now, I understand that no one likes to dwell on these embarrassing and costly experiences, let alone broadcast them to others, so I’m not really faulting anyone for not posting about them excruciating detail. And I certainly don’t want to equate my own shortcomings with more serious troubles.

But I fear what gets lost is an honest look at the invisible costs of these failures. It’s more than just a wadder, a project that you looked forward to that you don’t get to enjoy. There’s lost money, sure, and there’s lost time. Deeper still, there’s a loss of confidence, a reluctance to try again, a fear of failure. Why set a new goal? You failed at the last one—what makes you think you’ll succeed at this new one? You start to wonder if maybe you’re not cut out for these goals, if they’re really worth it, if working toward them even makes you happy. That’s a lot of baggage to carry forward. It doesn’t necessarily vanish with the next success. I’d dearly love to know how others manage it.

There is an even greater enemy than envy.

What’s thrown all of these feelings into sharp relief is seeing other bloggers reach for and achieve success this year. Reading about Helen’s journey as she blogged one make a week, designed two patterns, and grew her following to the hundreds in just one year, following along as Madalynne has teamed up with Urban Outfitters, Simplicity, and Pfaff to live her lingerie dreams, and watching as Allie has written tutorials, filmed a class, and garnered sponsorships, have been hard. I don’t resent their successes—far from it! I think that they’re amazing women who have worked hard and earned every good thing that has come their way. We’re so fortunate to have them in our community, and I admire each of them for their discipline, tenacity, and generosity of spirit.

When I look at these women, what I feel isn’t envy. It’s regret. They set goals for themselves; they worked hard; they succeeded. They achieved goals that I had for myself (whether I’d publicly stated them or not), and goals that I’d hoped to work toward in subsequent years, building on the foundation of this one. They didn’t fall into these successes by hazard or happenstance; they are not possessed of fabulous wealth, unlimited free time, or preternatural abilities.They earned these successes. And I could have earned them too, had I really tried.

The hardest thing to face is the realization that I did not become a better version of myself.

I have not achieved the goals that I identified as important to me. I have not been making choices to shape my life according to my own self-professed values. These were not mere mistakes, things that I can easily learn from and apply to future situations. These were failures. This is time that I cannot get back, and I regret that I used it so poorly.

That’s rather a grim place to end, I know, but there’s nothing to be gained by dishonesty, and nothing to say at all if I can only talk about what’s happy, easy, neat. Maybe I can open up the conversation about failure and disappointment. Or maybe mine is just another sad closing chapter for the year, and that like so many others I’ll be glad to put 2016 behind me and never look back.

In any case, may we all find the strength, wisdom, and grace to grow in 2017.

Revisiting Wardrobe Architect, Part 3: A Capsule and A Spring Sewing Plan

Edit: After sleeping on it, I realized that I hadn’t shared my list of garments because I was embarrassed that others would think it greedy to want so many pieces of clothing. But hiding the list didn’t make it go away, and if I don’t share it here, I won’t have a record of what I was thinking and planning at this place in time. It will be interesting to look back in a season or a year and see what things remain on my must-sew list and what things were only passing fancies. So, I’m adding in my list where it should have gone in the first place. 

Each time I’ve tried to take a second run at defining a capsule wardrobe, I’ve ended up with a list far too long to reasonably be called a capsule. Even though I’m of the mind that my capsule isn’t about limiting myself to a set number of items for a season, but rather about building a foundation of remixable pieces that work throughout the year, once I start adding up all of the combinations of garments, materials, and colors/prints I’d like to have, the list quickly balloons.

Instead of fighting it, I’ve decided to embrace it and see where it takes me. I’ve made a list of all the garments I’d like to have in my closet, and broken it down according to items that will work best as casual pieces, items that will work best for special outings and the more polished work look I’d like to achieve, and items that will work equally well for both.

2016-05-17_2_Capsule

Items marked with an asterisk are ones I don’t currently have and would need to make or buy. I have a lot of black work attire already, but going forward I want to avoid adding any more black to my wardrobe, since I find it very harsh with my skin tone and would prefer navy, brown, or grey. Cardigans in every color of my personal rainbow will be a key addition since I’m so often cold, and I’m optimistic that I can knit them all myself. I’ve combined items wherever I’m not picky about cut or color, such as t-shirts and skirts.

For the late spring/early summer, I’ve prioritized about a half dozen based on fabrics and patterns I already have. Instead of queuing them in a particular order, I’ll let myself pick my next project from that pool as the mood strikes. When I’ve gotten through those projects, I’ll go back to the original list, add or subtract garments based on changing needs or tastes, and pick another half dozen to work through. Groundbreaking stuff, huh?

Want to see the fabrics?

2016-05-16_1_Spring-Sewing-Fabrics

From left to right, the fabrics and their intended projects are:

  • Nicole Miller Ditsey Eden in Black – Faux wrap dress – Simplicity 1653 (View B)
  • Sew Classic Rayon Spandex Knit in Potent Purple (I think) – Empire-waisted surplice dress – McCall’s 7116 (View D)
  • Lightweight Cotton Polyester Jersey in Navy with Skinny Red Stripes – Relaxed t-shirt and/or tank dress
  • 100% Cotton Interlock in Kelly Green – Blazer – Simplicity 1421 or Simplicity 2446 (Fingers crossed I have enough fabric for this, since I bought it with a completely different project in mind)
  • Stretch Cotton Sateen in Blue Floral – Skirt or dress?
  • Stretch Cotton Sateen in Poppy Floral – Skirt or dress?
  • Stretch Cotton Sateen in Blue-Purple Floral – Skirt – Butterick B4686 (View A) (To show off the border print)
  • Featherwale Cotton Corduroy in Navy – Skirt

I wish I could link to more of the fabrics, but with the exception of the first two, they came from Hancock Fabric’s going-out-of-business sale. I also wish I had more specific patterns nailed down for the skirts/dresses, but I keep waffling. Pencil skirt? Flared skirt? Sheath dress AKA bodice with pencil skirt? Fit-and-flare dress AKA bodice with flared skirt? If I thought I would actually wear crop tops (and could get away with it at work—we’re not that casual) then I could have it all. Instead, it is decisions, decisions. But! they’re decisions I’m looking forward to making instead of dancing around with a faint sense of anxiety. I’m excited to adding the finished garments to my wardrobe, which is definitely a step in the right direction. Finally.

Revisiting Wardrobe Architect, Part 2: Colors and Patterns

When I looked at colors and prints the first time around, I understood the value in narrowing things down to a “manageable” number, and several more experienced capsule creators recommended choosing palettes based on the seasons. Seemed reasonable enough, so that’s what I did. But I had a rather difficult time narrowing things down, and some of my decisions ended up being driven more by a desire to create a balanced, restrained palette than by what I was likely to wear, and trying to plan actual pieces based on this less-than-ideal palette required a degree of mental acrobatics that’s laughable in hindsight.

This time around, I didn’t restrict myself to planning for the upcoming season alone, which only makes sense when I think about how I tend to drag out individual projects. (Staying on top of sewing for the seasons is something that I can only dream about right now.) Instead, I just gathered all of my favorite colors to wear in one place:

2016-05-07_Capsule-Palette

I’m sure I’ll continue to favor the darker, jewel-like tones in autumn and winter and the lighter, brighter tones in spring and summer, but seeing them all together will remind me of how things fit together, and maybe encourage me to consider less common color combinations (for me, at least) and seasonal switch-ups.

Even with such a large palette, I don’t intend to limit myself strictly to these colors, but I suspect that most purchases will easily include at least one of them. I’m also prepared to continue refining it as time goes on. I’ve already added purple back to the mix, because even though I have a hard time pairing it with other colors, I just can’t quit it. (I know that it naturally allies with yellow, but that gives me uncomfortable flashbacks to my high school’s and university’s spirit days—no thank you.) I’m also skeptical about how much lime green and powder blue I’ll actually end up with, but only time will tell.

Prints didn’t change much, but it was fun to put them all together in a fun little swatch:

2016-05-07_Capsule-Patterns

Stripes, dots/spots, checks/ginghams/tartans, and large-scale florals were all clear recurring themes in my inspiration images. I especially like the unexpected pattern mixing that can happen, like a flowered skirt with a striped t-shirt. While I could certainly see myself picking up the occasional abstract, geometric, or even animal print, I think these will be my go-tos.

With inspiration, color, and pattern now more closely aligned, I feel much more confident that I can put together a plan and start to build a wardrobe. With any luck, some real live sewing and knitting might start happening around here again!

Revisiting Wardrobe Architect, Part 1: Inspiration and Silhouettes

In March and April of last year, I examined how the clothes I like (and don’t) make me feel, what clothing shapes I gravitate toward, and what combinations of shapes are most comfortable and “me.” While I felt like I did a pretty good job of responding to the prompts, answering honestly, and collecting inspiration that actually resonated with me, in hindsight I see that somewhere along the way there was a disconnect between the style that I aspire to and the style represented by my capsule selections. My proposed capsule was too bright, with too many repeated colors and not enough pattern or texture to break it up. It felt too casual, instead of channeling the sleek put-togetherness that my inspiration images embodied.

At the time it was easy to overlook (and later shrug off) these shortcomings on the grounds that it was more an exercise than a concrete plan—that I was challenging myself to venture outside my style rut, not committing to making those precise pieces. While it’s true that I wasn’t locked into sewing what I’d sketched out, having a guide that was more puzzle than passion meant I didn’t have much more direction on actual garments than I’d started out with. As a result, I made a few questionable fabric purchases, added more patterns to my collection, and continued to waffle between potential projects because I wasn’t particularly excited to sew the things I’d laid out for myself and there was a lingering division between the clothes I wanted to make and the supplies I had to make them.

Now, a year later, it feels like it’s time to step back, reconsider, and figure out where I went off track so that I can create a sewing queue and wish list that I’m genuinely motivated to tackle.

To kick things off, I revisited my inspirational collage. Since we’re already well into spring, I removed the more autumnal and wintry photos and replaced them with warmer-weather pictures; I may bring the old ones back in a separate collage when it comes time to make fall/winter sewing plans. I also culled photos where the silhouette didn’t seem like 100% my style or the colors weren’t my favorites. That’s not to say I’d never sew or wear anything like them, but I wanted my collage to showcase only outfits that I would wear pretty much as-is—distilling all of the available inspiration to a style concentrate, if you will.

The result looks like this:

2015-05-04_My-Style-Collage

I had the hardest time choosing dresses, no doubt because I wear them so infrequently. I don’t dislike dresses, but in the spring it’s often chilly enough in the mornings for tights but hot enough in the afternoon to make them oppressive, and in the summer there’s the constant tension between sweltering temperatures outside and frosty air conditioning inside. Suffice to say that always-cold me usually plays it safe by wearing pants. But I’d like to change that, because rotating in the occasional dress makes me feel a little more feminine and, ironically, like I made an effort, even though they’re usually less effort to style than a pair of pants.

Speaking of pants, let’s talk about those palazzo pants. They represent the biggest gap between the image shown and the finished items I’m looking for, mostly because it can be so hard to find a specific, illustrative image online when you already have the perfect vision in your head. But when I was a kid, I had a pair of rayon challis trousers in sage green with tiny white flowers to wear to a semi-formal summer event outside. They had wide, straight legs and a narrow elastic waistband, and the material and drape of the fabric made them wonderfully comfortable in the heat and humidity of high summer in Virginia. I wore them with a sleeveless white button-down shirt that knotted at the front waist and a pair of white sandals. I remember feeling very glamorous in this outfit, and that’s a feeling I’d like to recapture. Plus, matched with the right top and shoes, I think it can work equally well for work or play.

In terms of silhouettes, I think these images capture my preferred looks exceptionally well; they represent not only my my favorite colors and moods, but also the specific combinations I’m drawn to. They also neatly illustrate one of the principles of fashion that I picked up from (of all places) a dressing room ad, and have since found works very well for me: pair a loose top with a fitted bottom and a fitted top with a loose bottom for instant visual interest. (Not everything fits this mold, nor does it need to for me. But if one of my outfits is feeling off, it can sometimes be remedied by swapping out one piece to create this appealing contrast.)

If I had to sum up my silhouettes, then, they would be:

  • Skinny trousers with a draped blouse (blazer optional)
  • Skinny jeans with a relaxed tee or tank top
  • Flared skirt with fitted t-shirt and cardigan
  • Flared dress with cardigan
  • Wide-legged pants with a fitted tank top or slim-cut blouse

When it comes to tucked versus untucked shirts, I generally favor untucked. The exception is probably tucking a t-shirt into a skirt or palazzo pants; for those instances, I’m thinking I may pick up the Closet Case Patterns Nettie Bodysuit. For shoes, I tend to wear heels to work and to go out to restaurants or movies, and stick to flats for casual Fridays and errands. I love the look of skinnies with heels—they make me feel taller and feel inexplicably chic—so I’ve been wearing that combination more often lately. I’m still on the hunt for a pair of flat sandals that aren’t unbearable to walk around in all day when I want to look cute during a weekend excursion, and I’d love to save my running sneakers for the gym and get a pair of cute, casual sneakers for casual days when it’s too cool, wet, or walking-intensive for sandals. Accessories are a moving target, but statement jewelry and smaller, colorful handbags are on my list, and I’m in dire need of an attractive pair of sunglasses.

My first inspiration collage brought a sense of relief that maybe I had a burgeoning sense of style after all. This one brings a spark of real excitement, because I can actually see myself making pieces to create outfits like these, and I already can’t wait to wear them and show them off. That’s how I want to feel about my handmade wardrobe.

Have you ever gone back to an inspiration board or a sewing/knitting/design plan to refine it? Did it change a little or a lot? What effect did this have on your craft?