Do you dress (or sew) for sex appeal?


{sophia loren}

Hot on the heels of Valentine’s Day, let’s talk about sex appeal in our clothing!

Recently, Caitlin has been digging deep into your responses to the survey we ran a while back. One of the themes she noticed when we asked about your motivation and goals for sewing your clothing was that some of you specifically wanted to feel attractive, beautiful, or desirable.

On its face, this makes a lot of sense. Don’t most of us want to feel attractive to others? And as sewers, don’t we have the unique opportunity to make ourselves into whatever image we want, through the clothes we make?

{rita hayworth}

On the other hand, I can’t say that I consciously think about ways I can appear more attractive to others. Instead, I’ve developed my own taste, and I dress (and make clothes) to suit that. And of course that factors in what other people find attractive, because I don’t live in a vacuum.

But rarely do I ever think, “I’ll wear this because my partner finds it attractive” (sorry honey!). In fact, just yesterday I donated a dress that is very flattering and that I get compliments on all the time, just because I don’t think it’s “me.”

Still, I can admit it: Though I don’t think about it much, I do want to be sexy. That’s because what is sexy to me is a woman with confidence, a woman with a distinct outlook, a woman who is different, a woman with intelligence, and a woman with a little mystery. These are all factors into my own personal taste, for sure.

So, I think there are two questions at play for most of us when we factor sex appeal into our wardrobes: (1) What do you consider sexy? and (2) Do you want to project sexiness personally? And I think that what you consider “sexy” has a big effect on whether you want to project sexiness yourself.

So the question for today is: Is sex appeal a factor in the way you dress? Do you ever think about it, or is it (like me) more of an unconscious thing that affects your overall taste? And what does “sex appeal” really mean to you, in terms of your own personal style?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 23


Rita Hayworth was often quoted as saying, “They go to bed with Gilda, they wake up with me.”

Carlotta Stermaria

That’s a very interesting question. What I consider sexy would rather be qualified as ‘sensual’, I think. Voluptuous fabrics, a bit of exposed flesh, colors that make the eye sparkle, clothes that follow gracefully the curves and free movements of a confident body. A smile, a laugh, a relaxed, yet elegant allure. The empowerment high-heels can sometimes bring. The ability to camp a character through clothes ( and I love Saint-Laurent’s work because of that), yet still be yourself : to play with it.

This being said, of course, I want to feel sexy (and generally don’t at this time of my life)! But I usually don’t think of it when choosing clothes : as an example, I don’t prefer loose necklines because they can be considered sexy, but rather because they ‘feel’ better. I can consciously dress in a way that I think might attract the opposite sex, but the outfit will have to attract me first.

I think clothing has a lot to do with projecting and seducing yourself.


You put this so well. I think a sense of play is one of the fundamental links between fashion and sex appeal.

You put this so well, especially your last line. It’s sort of about making yourself believe that you are the person you want to be.

Carlotta Stermaria

Thank you Sarai, I wasn’t sure I would be able to express myself properly in English!


To me, a big part of sexiness is feeling comfortable in one’s own skin. I think sewing has helped me accept my body as it is. I think this is because as a seamstress, I am constructing the garment to fit my body, instead of trying to fit my body into a mass produced garment.


Yes! I think this comes with experience in sewing. You must gradually accept your body and learn to work with it.


Not me. I think of clothing as an element of manners, as well as personal expression. I want modest and well-fitting, and depending on what I’m going to be doing in that particular outfit either pretty or practical or both. Sexy is totally off the radar. What can I say, I’m Catholic.


It’s funny because I would say “sexy” is nearly always off my radar as well. Unless I stop and think about what I actually consider sexy, which are the qualities of confidence and intelligence that I mention. Maybe for you, the qualities you admire are more contained in the words “pretty” and “practical” than the word “sexy”?


I agree with Sally that to me, what is sexy is projecting confidence and being comfortable with who you are. Certain outfits that might be wacky at face value can look incredibly sexy on a confident woman. But that same outfit on someone feeling unsure is perhaps not so sexy. I do want to be sexy to my man, but I know that what he finds sexy is when I don’t try too hard. If I’m all done up and trying to be sexy, that is not sexy! But pulling together something that works and that you feel good in, that is sexy. So for the dress you recently donated that technically flattered you, it likely didn’t flatter you in the long run if you didn’t feel “you” in it!


Ha, I realized that the wayI wrote it made it sound like I don’t care what my partner thinks. Actually, it’s more that I know he likes the way I look and dress, so I don’t feel a need to think about it too hard.


I don’t really think I dress for what is conventionally seen as sex appeal. Obviously if I find something unflattering on me I won’t make a habit of wearing it, but unlike most of my friends I don’t have special clothes reserved for occasions when I want to look ‘sexy’.

Not to pull out the therapists’ couch or anything, but I was a tomboy as a kid and when I hit puberty early and noticeably my instinctive reaction was to downplay it as much as I could. I think that informed my taste in clothes a great deal. I don’t wear the huge baggy stuff anymore, but you’ll never see me wearing something with loads of cleavage (or any really).

That said, if you look at the spectrum of people who are considered sexy, it’s all about being comfortable in your own skin and your clothes as an extension thereof. I may not be whipping out the va-va-voom, but I’m nothing if not comfortable in my clothes.


While I don’t specifically look for new patterns that are ‘sexy’, I have a definite pin-up girl sensibility – I like pencil-skirts, defined waists and fitted bodices. Of course, I have wide hips, a large bust and a smaller midriff, so my taste has sort of evolved to accentuate those attributes. If I was blessed with (of course my life-long wish) a tall, straight frame I’d probably favor different shapes for my clothing!

And I TOTALLY sew things and wear things that I know my hubby finds foxy and may not be totally to my taste. And he gives in and wears the clothes I like even though he’d rather live in man-made fibers and athletic gear. We’re each other’s eye candy, after all!


This is a great point! I think the shape you naturally have probably plays a big role in how you accentuate features. I mean, if you are built like Joan from Mad Men, your options are to play it up or try to hide it, and the first option will certainly be more flattering.

Also, I’ve noticed that anything even slightly revealing that a curvy or busty woman wears will be seen as 10x more sexy than if it were worn by a less ample figure.


Interesting topic, Sarai! I read this post early this morning, but have been pondering exactly how I feel about the idea of looking sexy.

I too agree with Sally’s assessment that sexiness has a large dose of confidence, outside of clothing. I tend towards more romantic styles, so conventionally “sexy clothes” have never really appealed to me. Sometimes my husband will comment that I look especially sensual, but I’ve noticed it’s not so much about the clothes I’m wearing but my attitude. I think at this point I definitely dress more for myself and how I will feel in an outfit, rather than to look overtly sexy or please someone else’s idea of what is sexy. And, if perchance I am dressing in a more alluring way, I usually take the stance that suggestion is far more sexy than letting it all hang out. ;) Honestly the times I have gotten the most comments from people about how I look (in a positive sense) are those when I not only am dressing according to my own style, but confident and happy with how I look.

♥ Casey


This is such an interesting topic.

I do remember filling out the survey as such; that part of the reason why I sew is to make clothes that I think are more attractive and make me feel beautiful. But like you said, these things don’t necessarily equate to ‘sexy’, since this term is different for everyone. I don’t feel that clothes that show cleavage and lots of skin are actually sexy, per say. And especially on me, it feels wrong and uncomfortable.

I personally feel that clothes that fit well, are feminine, tasteful, and that have lots of character make me feel pretty and is one of the main reason why I sew (which to me is much different than sewing for the sexy-factor).


I like looking feminine and beautiful, but I don’t really try for sexy, especially as sexy is defined in today’s fashion. I do like dressing modestly as well.

I think a big thing about what sexy means (or at least has traditionally meant) is confident. I like dressing in ways that make me feel confident in myself whether I’m showing enough skin/cleavage/curves to be ‘sexy’ or not.

So, I guess I’d say I’d rather be feminine than sexy, at least for every day wear.

Lola Devlin

This is a great question! When I was starting my business, this was a question I asked myself when trying to form my beliefs/backround/etc. The answers I came up with were: I feel like dressing sexy is nothing more than feeling sexy in the clothes that you are in. For me, these clothes are tailored perfectly to my own shape. Which thank goodness I have the ability to make my own clothes because prior to me even starting to do that, I was not looking as sexy as I was feeling inside. Like most answers above, fit it the true key, I think to how you feel. Fit immediately rolls over into the kind of drama that you want to exude when you are showing off your shape, and for me in particular, it is showing off my shape not my skin. I don’t think that I choose to dress “sexy” because by most terms, I am usually covered up – a blouse (or fitted sweater) & pencil skirt are my usual day to evening outfits…but with a very small waist against very big hips and long legs, I think that just showing that off is sexy in itself. Fighting that figure all my life til a few years ago when I decided to embrace it & make clothes that actually fit it, is a sexy way to live life I suppose! xx.L

Atomic Mum

I just love the question too and some of the comments are great.

For me it depends on why I am sewing an outfit and what the finished items will be used for. Tho it’s nice add some a bit sexy, like a bit of lace or a split in just the right place.

Plus wearing the right undergarments can make all the difference.


Very interesting topic. I was thinking about this lately in a pretty specific context of being interested in working up some sort of quasi-menswear looks from 1930s, attracted again to a more angular aesthetic, which tends to suit my frame. Thinking too about some of the ties I inherited from my dad, was going to make them into belts, but what if I actually wear them as ties? Does this look too bartendery, or on the other extreme, is there something overtly sexy about menswear on a woman,- or does it really matter on the particular figure? Like the same outfit on a buxom friend could be really dramatically sexy whereas it can look childish on me with my lack of curves– and vice versa with short hemlines and our respective heights. Does an outfit read that much differently on different body, or is it all too subjective for me to bother worrying about? Does it matter and do I care enough not to make something, if it’s going to limit the number of environments where I can wear something comfortably?

I’ve been dabbling in more feminine looks in the last couple of years, but my lifelong baseline is more tailored, sleek, androgynous, and I am feeling myself drifting back that way somewhat in things that are appealing to me right now, again. But I think the contrast is bringing up questions I hadn’t really thought much about before. I just thought the styles suited me. But I agree with what most have said- I think definitely the sexiest look is always going to be the one we individually feel the most confident and joyful in, no matter what that may be.


My first reaction was to think “i don’t try to be ‘sexy’!”…because to me the word evokes something too forced or explicit. For me something truly attractive has nothing to do with showing cleavage or upper thigh, but rather something that has an element of mystery i would rather be seen as fascinating than sexy. I don’t like low necklines as a rule, and cringe at those who have too much on display…it feels like “trying too hard” to me, although i would usually wear my clothes quite tight and do feel frumpy in baggy outfits.

Sexiness should have something “held back” something enticing, maybe even verging on mysterious. I love to wear menswear inspired outfits to work and i feel more confident when wearing something a bit unusual. I would wear closely fitting trousers and low-back waistcoats with shirt and tie combinations and would often get positive comments (usually that it is “cool”, or “smart”…don’t think anyone one has said “sexy”…i’m sure i’d feel uncomfortable if they did!…a woman walking past me once said “you should wear that waistcoat with nothing underneath it when you go out at the weekend! it would look great!”)

I wear ties a lot and love to sew classic cut shirts in pretty fabrics to wear with them.

…that said, when going out with my husband, a long-sleeved mini-dress with a high neckline at the front and loooooow back always wins the day


It’s interesting … I sew the clothes that I like and to an aesthetic that’s not particularly attuned to fashion trends, but the reaction that I get from others indicates that they find the result sexy or attractive. It’s never my intent or even desire to attract attention, but since sewing (and knitting) has freed me to make the clothes that I like instead of being forced to choose from the offerings of RTW, this has helped me cultivate a personal and distinct style which, in itself, appears unusual to others who are not part of this community … does that make sense? But it also means that it’s a style that I’m comfortable with, because I played an active role in crafting it. And then the ability to fit or alter clothes to means that they tend to flatter better than many off-the-rack garments. And maybe all of that put together – the comfort with personal style and garments selected, the playfulness that comes from mix/matching clothing that you truly love, the confidence and ease with which you carry yourself in something that you know fits – that translates to “sexiness” or “attractiveness” to others. So sexiness has never been my desired end product, but it’s wound up as a by product of this other, intensely personal and creative, process.


Interesting topic. My first associtation with sexy was a very provocative look, highlighting the feminine features to the max. And that’s not my style. But since I sew my clothes myself they have become much more figure hugging and better fitting and in this way, yes, more sexy. Just like others mentioned before, self sewn clothes give you confidence and a personality that radiates to other people.
I personally wouldn’t do the full “sexy programme”. I’m just too happy when people talk to my face instead of my boobs. ;)


I definitely dress and sew with sexiness in mind because… well, because that’s me and it’s how I feel comfortable, but also, I must admit, because I *am* actually trying to attract men. I just happen to be a happily promiscuous woman.
Anyhow, sexy to me is emphasizing my figure, which I love, through tailored, fitted clothes with defined waitlines, and wearing ‘feminine’ clothes, predominately dresses. I don’t tend to do much cleavage these days, and I tend to hem my skirts and dresses just above or below the knee. I guess my overall approach is an emphasis on shape rather than skin, which is a style I can do in the office or out with friends.

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