Considering Style Elements: 10 Tips

Quilting cotton and old sheets are where so many of us begin our garment sewing. Seeing the beautiful creations on Instagram, Facebook, Blogs, etc. We pick up a pattern and sew until we are tempted by something that needs to stretch or drape. Our fabric and pattern use and knowledge expand and we realize that style is our next hurdle.

Is this your story? When style isn’t available to you, why consider it? Maybe you were always interested in fashion and wanted to up your game from ready-to-wear, rather than having been unable to find ready-to-wear? Either way there comes a point when sewing really opens up the world of fashion to you, whether it is runway fashion or simple everyday options, suddenly all of the possibilities are there and you need to know what looks good on you and that raising/lowering the waistline or hem 2″ will make all the difference for your finished garment.

There are so many books and blogs that offer guidance, but many still want you to fit into a standard fashion box. Fitting the elements of different styles together is daunting particularly when you can’t try things on. I love a cardigan, blouse and skirt combination-in theory, but I need to find the right combination. Are there even cardigans that look good on a large bust? When RTW doesn’t offer tops that come anywhere near fitting, how do you efficiently test options?

This is something that I’ve been struggling with. So far, I’ve done the easy things, like hem lengths, by simply making long muslins and adjusting hem lengths while looking in the mirror until I find some I like, which gives me a pretty good idea how long I like my skirt, dresses and tops. For a while during a period when I wasn’t up to sewing, time was limited and I really needed clothes to wear, I shopped trying different necklines, sleeves and hemlines on dresses and later altering things to be more to my taste.

Another option I hope to work on soon is interchangeable parts. The new sleeve patterns available for Simplicity patterns offer the opportunity to make a single bodice, do the fitting and alterations just once then change the sleeves out to see how each looks. Another pattern that I will be using for this is New Look 6567 which is a woven dress pattern with 4 neckline options. Looking at the pattern it seems like it could be mocked up as a sleeveless bodice (shortened from dress to top), with each of the four neckline options all in muslin. It might even be possible to just cut the front panel and pin it to your bra straps to get a general idea of the neckline without having to sew anything. That would allow you to decide if any of them don’t suit at all and shouldn’t be given further consideration, possibly before doing any fitting or alterations.

I’ve realized a few things along the way. Most people don’t do fashion…at all. They do cookie cutter workplace, cookie cutter student or cookie cutter SAHM. As RTW shoppers they don’t have a choice, but what people like are often styles that aren’t readily available in most areas. Finding something vintage inspired where I live is unlikely. A little boho maybe because even Walmart recognizes that long and flowy fits more people (not that it looks good on everyone). Those trendy LulaRoe leggings are trendy because they are comfortable an less boring than the available alternatives. Moving your thinking from what is to what could be is where clothing meets fashion and sewing meets design. This is where you choose your style. Maybe this has been obvious to everyone else, but it did take me decades to realize that pants aren’t for me.

Having read several books and blogs about style and wardrobe creation I’ve learned that a lot of what is written isn’t useful, but that a little guidance can go a long way. These are some of the things that I’m finding helpful.

1. Have a uniform. However you want to define that. Skirt and a blouse, jeans and a tee, all black and white, power suits.

2. Have a color palette. Try it with darker and lighter variations for seasonal changes.

3. Choose a few silhouettes that work for you.

4. Look in the mirror and take pictures.

5. Decide what your final goal is. How many garments/outfits do you want? How many do you need?

6. Check to see if your makes are in line with the style you want.

7. Check to see if the style you want suits you.

8. Pay attention to you. That top that looked great on you in fall looks terrible in spring? Did your coloring change? Does your palette need to change with it?

9. Transitional pieces and layering pieces may be the most valuable pieces you can make. Get these right and you’ll have more time to perfect single season pieces.

10. Learn your elements. Necklines, hemlines, sleeves, colors. You don’t need to define your style. You can refine your style instead. Copying a “style” may not get you where you need to be. It won’t tell you how to integrate more than one style. Instead, find what suits you, what makes you happy and what makes you feel good. Then practice putting those elements together to create your style.

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