Monday, June 27, 2011

The fiasco that is Me-Made-June

What can I say about Me-Made-June? Sigh. I haven't had time to take photos of myself, and I haven't had time to check the flickr group out at all.

About the only thing I've had time to do is wear me-made clothes, which I've been doing pretty faithfully. (Though, I've technically cheated a couple of times by wearing a store-bought tank top underneath super-low cut garments that require it. Whatever.)

But I think that my month's experience has perhaps indicated that the Me-Made-Months and me should part ways.

Don't get me wrong, I love the whole idea of it. I haven't bought any RTW clothes in over a year, maybe even two. (Don't see the point, have too much fabric.) Eventually, I'll shift to being all me-made, just because my store-bought stuff wears out, and I don't buy RTW any more. (In daily life, I'm already at ~30-35% me-made.)

It's the execution I find incredibly cumbersome - I hate taking photos. Since I live by myself, taking photos involves setting up the tripod, carrying it to the balcony, wondering if my neighbours think I'm an idiot, taking photos, uploading photos, editing photos - and so on, and so forth, until I'm at the point of utter madness.

So, no. Unfortunately, the time has come for the sun to set on this little relationship. I am sad, but without regret.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


My plan on Sunday was to have lunch with my parents. I wore this red dress.

My mother took one look, and called me Santa Claus. And she proceeded to laugh the entire time we were at lunch. Even my normally-diplomatic dad looked and sounded a bit aghast at this dress. And at the end of lunch, my parents drove me back home, my mom made me change out of the dress, and she promptly and immediately took it to the thrift store. Where it will undoubtedly be used as a Santa Claus costume.

Ahem. That's failure, dear Readers. Dramatic, utter, total failure.

"Never been worn" is the fate of this Proenza-Shouler dress.

And this dress has also not left the closet to see daylight (although this is more about needing to lose weight.)

Now, I'm not an advanced sewer, I do fail quite a bit. But these three projects have one thing in common - trying to replicate an existing RTW look. Evidently, I don't know how to do this. I wonder why. Thoughts?

In the meanwhile, I'm soon re-opening myself up to failure. I want to make this ModCloth dress.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Colour me intimidated

I've been on the library waitlist for the Pattern Magic book forever. It finally came in yesterday, I spent some time flipping through it, and wow, colour me intimidated! Creating my own sloper. Making the pattern manipulations to it myself. Lots of marking, slashing, spreading.

Hmm. I've been avoiding buying this book, on the fear that it would just sit in my bookshelf, unused. (Burda magazines, anyone?) However, I do think this might be one of those books that I should buy, and then set myself a goal of creating one piece every 3 months or something like that. I would learn so much that way!

My white shirt is a f***ing disaster. Because of the subtle stripes, I cut the fabric in one layer. Yesterday, when I was going to set in the sleeves, I realized I cut two identical sleeves. And I don't have enough fabric to cut another one. So, I'm going to go ahead and set my sleeve in backwards. Can you say disaster? Sigh. I just gave up and went to sleep last night.

Friday, June 17, 2011


What a crazy couple of weeks it has been! I got back super-late Sunday night from Montreal, and have had social engagements every single day this week. A few nights, I've been getting back home past midnight. So, no time to sew. My white shirt is languishing, half-sewn.

Biscuit is super annoyed with me, due to all the neglect. When I was in Montreal, my mother took care of her, and she was doted on and treated like the little princess she is. Then she returns home, and I'm flying in and out of the house? Serious cat crankiness. Yesterday, when I was leaving for work in the morning, she bit my ankles every time I went near the front door. Poor little bear! I felt really bad for her (and also for my ankles, a little.) To make amends, I went home for lunch and sat with her for a half-hour.

Ah, little cranky cats, the things we do for you!

I did have time to sew yesterday evening, but I didn't. Hmm. Anyway, I hope to get back to my white shirt tonight. Sure, it's a bit boring to sew, but I really actually *need* a white shirt.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Final Word on the Work Wardrobe

Adelaide B left a very thought-provoking comment on my last post...

It seems to me that a lot of things that you describe as being not appropriate for work (even though they do not violate HR guidelines) are things that could be considered "only for women." Girl colors, loud colors, prints, and full shapes are all things that read feminine. I'm not stating anything new by commenting that professional clothes for women must mimic menswear in order to be taken seriously. (Muted colors and shapes. This was especially exaggerated in the 80's. Ugh.) I get that you gotta do what you gotta do, but it's a shame. You've made some lovely things.

I thought about that for a bit, and while there's some truth to that, it isn't quite perfectly true. At my workplace, while the senior echelon is predominantly male (an unfortunate reality that persists to this day in corporate North America), at the low-level rung I sit, there are just as many women as there are men. And these women dress in a variety of colors and styles.

As do I. The pink dress is - well - pink. It doesn't get more feminine than hot pink, I don't think.

I think the dress that set me thinking about all this was more girly than feminine, and that's an important distinction. I'm entirely too old to look girly at work. And it is hard to be girly and to be taken seriously.

Additionally, what was important was my personal discomfort with the way I was dressed. At the heart of it, I prefer to dress in a relatively conformist manner. (Hopefully, with style as well.) And at the end of the day, it is all about being comfortable in my own skin.

And that's my final word on the wardrobe (not yours though! talk to me!). I leave for Montreal in 4 hours. I won't be back till late on Sunday night. I will try not to buy too much fabric, but I'm not entirely sure how much restraint will be displayed. Thankfully, I won't have too much time to shop for fabric, I'm going to Montreal's beer festival, and will be otherwise distracted.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

More wardrobe ramblings - being taken seriously at work

Just as I predicted, no sewing last night. And not much sewing for the rest of the week either. I leave tomorrow night to Montreal for the rest of the week. A mini-vacation, just what the doctor ordered.

I've had a lot of really interesting comments on my thoughts on a work wardrobe. Thanks, everyone! Your thoughts have helped me think through what kind of clothing will help me be taken seriously at work.

Being taken seriously is a higher bar than "acceptable by the strict HR standards". I think it encompasses dressing in a relatively understated manner, so that your message is the focus, not your clothing. Hence, dressing as similarly as possible to your co-workers. If people are routinely complimenting my clothes, I'm actually a tiny bit concerned that the focus is on my clothing. (This is also why practically no one at my workplace knows I sew. I don't want the conversation at work to be about sewing.)

SewOm wrote:

I have to agree with you on shape. I read a lot of blogs where people create a lot of vintage dresses. Thing is, those shapes are typically from an era when women were rarer in the workforce than they are now. A very full, gathered skirt does not convey authority or power - it conveys "pretty", or, "50's housewife."

I do think a cardigan would have helped that dress. I also think that the colors in that dress are neutral enough that with a slimmer, sleeker skirt, you would have felt better.

I could not agree more with this comment - SewOm articulated exactly what I was feeling about my dress. And a cardigan would have toned it down. And both authority and power are synonyms for being taken seriously, I think.

Kid, MD wrote:

YES! That grey dress is fabulous!!
I need to comment on your blog more. I love all the dresses you've made lately, and your post about color has really had me thinking. And noticing! I wonder if it is color or prints that feel less work appropriate. Do you think a nice saturated purple or blue would feel professional and chic, but still satisfy the need for color?

Well, I wore the above pink shift dress to work yesterday - I think it is border-line acceptable.

On the shape/color thing - it is a very bright color, but the shift-dress shape is very professional. I think a saturated blue or purple would be better than this pink. Instinctively, though I can't really explain why, the following colors are a bit of a not-quite-ok for work.

- Pink
- Yellow
- White
- Orange

But I can't explain why. (Especially the white. A cream seems ok to me, but a white seems too summery, if that makes any sense.)

Conclusions so far: (All of this just applies to my workplace. There's a ton and variety in workplaces, your experience might be totally different from mine.)

- Full skirts in a color are not ok for work. (The jury's still out on full skirts in a neutral.)
- Really bright colors are probably out as well. (Though I don't care, I'm going to keep wearing the pink dress.)
- Prints in bright colors are definitely out. Prints in neutrals are ok, as long as they are a work-appropriate shape.

I know this might seem to be pretty obvious to a lot of people. But, with me? When buying RTW clothes, I was appropriately dressed, mostly by instinct. However, when sewing my clothes, I need to articulate why something works/doesn't work, so I'll remember that at the start of a project.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The problem with sewing for work...

is that it is a wee-bit boring. Still, I told my inner child to grow up, and cut out fabric for a white shirt last night.

I'm a tiny bit concerned about the fabric. It has self-embossed stripes on it (I'm sure this is the wrong technical term), and these stripes are quite sheer. Sewing an unwearable white shirt would be very, very annoying. (Though I could always use it as a summer-weight jacket, I guess...)

This evening promises to be busy. My parents just got back today from a trip to India, and they are dropping by in the evening. (Parents, if you are reading, bring fabric.) I've been meaning to catch up with a friend as well, and this catching up will take place over beer. I'd really like to get the white shirt done tonight, but realistically, it's just not going to happen.

Tomorrow morning, I have a meeting with some pretty senior people, and I must look grown-up and professional. Since I'm doing Me-Made-June, this limits my options somewhat. I will perhaps pull out my grey dress. Grey = work-appropriate, right?

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Mini-Miracle Dress - Simplicity 3803

So, I realized I`d never shown a picture of the dress I made early May. I referred to it in this post.

It came together easily, I sewed it in 15-minute chunks, and it was done in a few days. Sewing in 15-minute chunks, balancing the rest of the stuff I have to do - this kind of balanced sewing is something I frequently aspire to do, but rarely achieve. Perhaps because of that, I`m extra-fond of this dress.

I`m not going to bother with a full-blown review, but the bodice is Simplicity 3803, the skirt is just a rectangle with tucks. The fabric is a thrift store find, I paid $3 for it, which I remember thinking was expensive, since I didn`t actually have a use for this fabric. In retrospect though, I`m very glad I bought it.

The instructions on this pattern are actually pretty good. They have a hand-sewing-free method of attaching the lining to the fabric.

I like hand-sewing-free methods. I see a lot of sewists that talk lovingly of careful hand-sewing - I will confess to not understanding this at all. I like machine sewing, and detest hand-sewing. If I resort to hand-sewing, it`s because I don`t know how to do something by machine, and I should learn.

So, today. I have done no sewing, and am likely to do no sewing. It is a gloriously beautiful day, I think I will spend some time on my balcony instead.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Making it Mine: My version of Lily`s dress in How I Met Your Mother

Here it is, my version of Lily's dress.

The entire story:

I'm a huge fan of How I Met Your Mother. Recently, I spent some time at my laptop, catching up on episodes I haven't seen, and I stumbled upon this red dress that Lily wore in an episode at the end of Season 3.

The instant I saw this dress, I wanted to recreate it. I tried to find an image of this dress so I could zoom in to see details, but this was tough! This is a 2008 dress, and I could not find a store that had it in stock. (I`m assuming stores don`t carry 5 year inventory.)

This meant I had to be content with recreating a similar feel - vs. copying the dress exactly. This was fine by me, I wasn't looking for a complicated project. Simplicity (the concept, not the pattern company) is good.

The sleeves in the inspiration dress reminded me of McCalls 6200 - a dress I`ve made recently (though without sleeves.) I went shopping for a red knit fabric, pulled out some leftover white knit, and got to work.

I cut the neck band and the sleeve band in white. I shortened the hem by 4 inches, and added a 4 inch strip in white. I cut a top red piece and a bottom red piece, splitting where the waistline was, and added a strip of white for the waist. Beyond that, I pretty much constructed this dress as indicated in the pattern (except, I stitched the neck bands together at the neck edge, based together and treated as one piece where it attaches to the dress.)

This should have been an easy dress to make, but the waistband took 2 iterations to get right. First iteration, too low on my waist. Second iteration, too loose. Aargh. Lots of seam-ripping and cursing happened.

Apart from that, this is a really easy dress to make...

I need to sew practical work things now, so readers, if I make another non-work-appropriate dress, please feel free to kick me.

More work wardrobe reflections

(Sorry about the blurry pictures. If you click through on them, it takes you to a better resolution one.)

I've been thinking about this work wardrobe thing.

As I said in my previous post, I wore the red dress on the left to work on Wednesday, and felt slightly out-of-place all day.

On Friday, I wore the black printed dress on the right. This is one of the simplest dresses I've made, but I reach for it near-constantly. It is loose enough that I can hide all body issues under it, but still flattering. I love this dress.

I was trying to think of why I thought one dress was more work appropriate than the other. After all, they are both prints. They are both about the same length. Both have sleeves.

Here are my theories.

- Color: Color seems to be a no-no at workplaces. A splash of color, in a blouse, for example, worn under a jacket is ok. Head-to-toe color, in the form of a dress? Out of place. Had I worn a neutral khaki jacket over my dress, I dare say I'd have felt less out-of-place. Sally at Already Pretty had a post about this a few days ago, it clearly stuck with me.

- Shape: The red dress has a vintage-feeling, flared shape. The black dress has a more contemporary straighter silhouette. As much as I love my vintage patterns (and trust me, I have a boatload of them), I don't think the vintage silhouette works for the workplace. It feels costumey. There are people that can rock vintage dressing, and I love their blogs and photos, and covet their clothes. But... mostly, these people work in non-corporate North America. My work place isn't banker-corporate, but it is corporate enough.

As I think through sewing a more work-appropriate wardrobe - I need to remember - color and shape.

(Crap! My stash is all cheerful prints. Super crap!)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Dressing for work during summer

Yesterday was gorgeous. It was the kind of early summer day that Toronto gives you to make up for the crap-tacular winter that we are subjected to. I wore this dress to work. And I felt out of place all day.

On the face of it, this dress doesn't violate any corporate dressing rules. (The rules that HR carefully reminds us of at the start of every summer, for fear that we might transform into an army of tank-top wearing drones, I suspect.) It has sleeves. It is of the right length. It does not have any corporate logos on it.

However... As I've become increasingly self-stitched in the last couple of years, my wardrobe has diverged more and more from my colleagues. They wear black pants, I wear skirts. They wear separates, I wear dresses. They wear jackets, I wear cardigans.

The thing is, I don't like to stand out. I like the idea of being stylish, not fashionable. I want my clothes to have an understated chic-ness. I want to be well-dressed, but not out-there.

In many settings, my dress works perfectly. Summer BBQ? Perfect dress. Beer with friends? The dress didn't attract a single comment. But, this is not the right dress for work.

Though I try to avoid the tough projects (pants, jackets, anything with button-holes), I think it is time I started exploring the idea of a work-appropriate summer wardrobe.

Sigh. This is a bit of a pity, I love my summer dresses.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Sewing Goals - 1st week of June

After the adventure that was (the inaccurately named) 7-Dresses-in-7-Days, I'm assuming I'll spend some time picking up the crap that's all around the house, but I thought - hey, it's the beginning of the month - let me make some actual sewing goals.

With that in mind, here's what I'd like to do by next Wednesday:

1. Finish my red dress. My inspiration dress is this red dress that Lily was wearing on season 3 of How I Met Your Mother. It's cut out, and sewn together, but a quick try-on last night revealed I needed to take an inch off the bodice length, and possibly an inch or two off the skirt length, so some seam-ripping awaits.

2. Make a white shirt. It isn't just for Me-Made-June, I don't actually own a white shirt, self-sewn or otherwise. I have fabric, I probably even have buttons. This shouldn't take that long, I should just get to it.

3. Cut out some lining for a UFO that's been in the pile since about this time last year. (Waiting for lining to be cut out.) If I can get everything ready, I'll be in good shape to work on this next week.

4. This isn't a sewing thing precisely, but I need to do the winter-summer clothes transfer in my closet. I still have woolen skirts on hangers. It's time to pull the summer dresses out, and put away the heavy winter gear.

5. If I have time after all that, I'd like to trace something out from a BWOF magazine. There's a simple knit dress I've had in mind for a long time now (with corresponding fabric in stash.) I'd really love to get this going.

That's it! Readers, do you have sewing goals this week?