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:
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?