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The Wardrobe Architect Week 1: Making style more personal


Hey there & thank you for reading the Colette blog!

This site is no longer being updated so head over to Seamwork to get all the latest patterns, tutorials, video classes, and more.

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The Wardrobe Architect is a popular series that ran in early 2014. It’s currently being expanded (with help and feedback from you) into a comprehensive toolkit. You can read all the posts here. If you want to give feedback and get first access when the toolkit is finished, enter your email:

We live in a world saturated with trends.

You may argue that this is not a new phenomenon. Trends in fashion have been with us for centuries, reflecting the values and context of the world we live in. They bring novelty and innovation and orient us in a specific place and time.

But it’s easy to see that the speed at which we churn through trends has steadily increased. Today, in addition to the ever-rotating whims of fast fashion, we are constantly being exposed to trends through sites like Pinterest, or through blogs.

I won’t argue that this wealth of visual inspiration is a bad thing, necessarily. But how do we keep it from diluting our own unique aesthetics and tastes? How do we prevent becoming part of a homogenized, singular “style” rather than expressing who we truly are through our clothing or our homes?

You are not what you look at

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the endless bounty of prettiness on the internet? I know I do. There are so many different styles, each one lovelier than the next. Sometimes you might wonder, how do I combine all of these disparate things that I like into something that actually feels like me?

But just because you like something, that does not mean it fits you. Enjoying looking at something doesn’t mean it has a deep connection to who you are, necessarily. Some things are just nice to look at and appreciate on their own.

What is individuality?

I believe that one of the main functions of fashion is to tell a story about yourself to the world.

The vocabulary of that story is not unique in itself. The language of clothing is limited, and you’re usually constrained by the styles of the time and the meanings that are affixed to clothing by others. Often we use clothing to signal that we’re a part of some group. Maybe that group is “rich people,” or “bookish intellectuals” or “geeks who don’t care about fashion.”

That is the superficial level of the story, and it doesn’t take much thought to tell it. In fact, everyone speaks about themselves through their clothing, no matter what. There is always a story to be read.

But you can also use clothing to tell a more nuanced and specific story about who you are. You are the only person living your life in your own body, and you can use that unique lens to filter the world around you.

Think about all the ways you are different, and how that can be reflected in your identity:

  • History: Your personal history and life events.
  • Philosophy: Your religion, spirituality, or general philosophy.
  • Culture: Your cultural background and the aesthetic values you grew up with.
  • Community: Your friends and the people around you.
  • Activities: Your interests, activities, and hobbies.
  • Location: Where you live.
  • Body: How you feel about your body.

So why bother trying to tell that story?

For one thing, it can help buffer you against the onslaught of trends that we talked about above. Knowing who you are and what works for you lets you filter out a lot of those consumerist messages pretty easily. It feels good to be able to appreciate something without needing to own it.

Second, it gives you a stronger and more meaningful connection to the things you choose to have in your life.

Exercises and Discussion

  1. Download this week’s worksheet to get your brain going on the factors I mentioned. This editable PDF can be filled out on your computer or printed.
  2. Choose one of the 7 areas above and tell us in the comments how that particular aspect of your identity influences the way you dress (or how you’d like it to).
  3. BONUS: I thought these would also make good photography prompts, so each day I’ll be Instagramming a photo and giving my answers. Today I’ll post a photo and talk about how my personal history has affected my style. Tomorrow, I’ll do Philosophy. Saturday is Culture, Sunday is Community, Monday is Activities, Tuesday is Location, and Wednesday is Body.

Feel free to follow along with me and post your answers too! You could also post them on Facebook, your blog, or just keep them to yourself. If you do post them, use the #WardrobeArchitect hashtag so everyone can follow along with each other!

But for now, just choose one of the 7 topics above and tell us in the comments how it affects your style. I can’t wait to hear your answers!

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 181


HISTORY: I like dresses, though now as an adult I don’t wear dresses nearly as much as I did up to the age of about 10 or 11. I hated wearing jeans until I was a teenager – primarily this came from a dislike of wearing a belt to hold up my pants! I still dislike wearing anything that needs to be held up by a belt. I now primarily wear skirts, though I would love to integrate more dresses for both winter and summer into my wardrobe.

Thanks so much for creating this series – I really struggle to keep a focus on what I actually like to wear vs what I like the look of. For instance, this week I nearly purchased some adoralbe pink fabric with narwhals on it, but realised that while I like the fabric it isn’t what I know I want to see hanging in my wardrobe.


It sounds like the Wardrobe Architect is working already for you! You made a rational decision not to buy the cute narwhale fabric. Go you!


Hmmm, interesting. I’ve already identified my own wardrobe issues over the year. From high school I got married and had a passel of kids. The way I dressed immediately changed, mostly for practical purposes. Eventually, it also stayed that way for feeling “moms don’t dress this way” and now “40 year old women don’t dress like 1987 Madonna without looking ridiculous”.
And I also gained a lot of weight, mostly around my middle. There’s a few things I would wear differently without a belly. :-/

I am starting to get it through my thick head that I could use elements of the styles I like in my daily dress and not look like I’m trying too hard to hang on to lost youth.

The dissonance in my head comes from my mental body image being skinnier than I actually am, and from a time before I had kids. Usually for women it’s the other way around.


just thought i’d mention- coming from my 27 year old perspective, I absolutely look up to and admire women who are in their 40’s and have fun with their wardrobe. You guys are setting the stage for us and I hope you put yourself in the limelight where you deserve! Regardless of whether your body is perfect (I know mines not!), just wear items that make you happy and we’ll be able to tell. A smile is certainly the best accessory. <3


BODY: Ugh, this is the number-one influence on the way I dress right now. I am carrying many extra pounds and hardly any of my clothes fit. I basically wear the same 4-5 things over and over again, but I don’t want to make/purchase things that fit my current body. It’s a frustrating and discouraging place to be, because I definitely don’t think of myself as sloppy or frumpy, yet that is how I’m dressing.


This is the same issue I have! I want to wear things that show I have a waist, yet… there is none. :D

Fiona M

Yes, yes, yes!
I’m bigger than I’d like to be, so anything too conforming is not good. I like to skim over my larger parts – belly, hips, bottom, thighs.
I like to accentuate my waist as It is one thing I do have that makes me look more shapely, also I think I have good calves and ankles.
I suppose I am much less concerned with looking fashionable since I became middle aged. Comfort now matters more, although I wouldn’t want to look untidy or ridiculously dated.


I loved reading your post. Believe me, that waist is a beautiful fashion focus. I always had a waiste until I turned 70 and now there is no waist. but listen, there is always fashion. I bought two basic princess style dress patterns. Using the same measurements i made two mock ups. I wont be mean so i will not name the pattern company that made me look like a sack of flour. But the Burda 8351 gave me a well suited dress with a hint of waist. I have been fine tuning the petiting and the shoulder and sleeve width. this fitting experience has taken the emotional pain out of turning 70 because I feel i am not just getting older, I am getting smarter. njoy your waist, flaunt it!


Oh Camille, I feel exactly the same way. It’s a completely vicious circle. Perhaps it’s time to break it. We can always alter the clothes if we lose weight, no?


Oh Camille, I understand your problem 100%. I have … drum roll… two pairs of jeans that fit for pants. That is IT. Period for pants. I outgrew the skirts and haven’t made any to fit the bigger body because I am so frustrated/upset with myself. I really don’t want to think of myself as a sloppy dresser, but the honest answer would be that yes, I am. Really, a few months away from 50 and we have the money to afford more, and my wardrobe looks like a starving artist. Hubby wants me to dress nicer – but when I go out shopping it doesn’t fit (I’m tall) and is often cheap/ugly. ARGH!


I grew up sewing most of my clothes because I could and because we were hard up as well. I was lucky because my mother was a trained dressmaker and we had a house full of fabric that I was free to use: most of it was vintage remnants, curtains, and (I shudder now) period clothes from the 50s that I cut up and modified to fit me. I made anything and everything.

I stopped sewing for me when the family came along, and now I have the time to start again guess what?? I have another body that is a weird shape!! So can no longer run up a Vogue 14 and it will fit perfectly. Added to which my lifestyle now dictates a practical work/dogwalking/gardening wardrobe and I’m sick of polyester fleece and bodywarmers.

This SWAP is making me think carefully about what I actually need as well as what I’d like, and how to best use my time. Thank you so much.

PS any suggestions for a trousers/pants pattern for an apple shape?



I totally agree! I’ve been feeling especially frustrated with my sewing at this point because all of the things I want to sew are not the things that would fit or flatter my body right now.


I hear you! I feel the same way :(


BODY: I’m short and curvy so it’s nearly impossible to just walk into a store and find pants that fit right off the rack. I get so frustrated that I end up wearing skirts and dresses more than I care to just to avoid pants shopping.
I’m very excited for this series. Currently my closet is a hodgepodge of clearance rack finds. I’m looking forward to developing a signature style and not settling for clothes that “kind of” fit.


Should I just say that I have multiple fashion personality disorder?

I think that, for where I am in life, activities and location are probably the biggest factor. I feel like I have so many different wardrobes–there’s the “what I’m allowed to wear to my retail job” wardrobe, which consists of sneakers, thrifted jeans and shorts, and the company t-shirt. (It’s a garden center, and you don’t want to wear nice things when you’re literally selling dirt.) There’s my “musician” wardrobe, which consists of all of the more normal workday clothes I teach in, as well as black things for when I’m performing. There’s my “church” wardrobe, where I’m more likely to wear skirts and dresses. And there’s my “weekend” wardrobe, which is mostly things like jeans and geeky t-shirts. I’m not exactly sure how to put this all into a cohesive style, although the retail job is the smallest factor since I never wear those particular clothes outside of work. There’s also the very real possibility of starting a family in the next couple of years, and trying to think ahead of what I wear now that won’t work when little kids are in the picture.

My climate is also a factor. Our summers are hot and humid, and while our winters are generally not too bad compared to, say, near Canada, unless there’s a polar vortex or something, I get cold easily. So all I generally want to wear in the winter are pants and sweaters, or cute jackets that I’ve made and am now realizing I have very little to layer with. And then in the summer, I feel much more comfortable wearing skirts than shorts, but often feel overdressed when I’m around my very casual family.

Lisa G.

I think that’s normal, Becky! :)


History: I went to private catholic schools for 11 years. I wore a uniform everyday. At the elementary level (kindergarden through grade 6), I had navy blue socks or tights, white short or long sleeved blouse or even a turtleneck (it gets cold in Winter in Ottawa!) and a dress. The dress was that dark blue and green wool plaid, sleeveless, drop waist, pleated skirt, gold buttons down the front. Then, at the secondary level, it was still navy blue socks or tights, white short or long sleeved blouse but with a pleated navy blue skirt, navy blue blazer, and red tie. As a teenager especially, I knew it wasn’t cool to like your uniform but I liked both of them anyway. It wasn’t just about the ease of dressing in the morning (though now that I’m older, I appreciate it!). It was about a feeling of being “put together”, not sloppy.

To this day, I like to feel put together even if I’m just staying home. I cannot for the life of me stay in pajamas all day! Even when I’m wearing jeans and a T-shirt, I like them to be well fitted and I like to throw a blazer on over them to go out. In fact, blazers are one of my favorite items of clothing.

From those days in school, I’ve also kept a fondness for navy blue (my favorite neutral) and plaids (especially skirts and dresses).


I also went to a private catholic school with navy blue uniforms! It had so much impact on me that I just gave up navy blue last year! I found out they’re not great for my skin color. But I can at least wear them on accessories and skirts.


We also had to dress in dark blue (with a bunch of other rules, it was a dress code, not an actual uniform) and on me it had the opposite effect: I didn’t wear anything blue for years after it. It’s only in the past few years I’ve added this color back to my wardrobe. Being forced to dress a certain way can raise big emotions, mine weren’t so positive…


Same here. My school colors were tan, navy, and white, none of which I wear today if I can help it. Well, my aversion to white has a lot to with Murphy’s law that I learned on white-button-down-and-plaid-skirt Wendsdays.


I love your story. Uniforms are so powerful in so many ways.


I had a similar history – except we had a ‘dresscode’ and not a uniform. The dresscode consited of black pants (or skirt), white shirt, and green sweater. But, because it wasn’t a uniform, the kids with more money could afford the nicer pants, skirts and shirts (and I wasn’t one of the rich kids). Which kinda eliminated most of the benefits of a uniform (ie. creating a level playing field for students so they are not judged by what they wear by peers or teachers). I hated that dresscode.

At the same time, it meant that I also lost years of wardrobe building practice. It took years to get a bit of an idea of what might look good on me and what works together and I’m still not sure.


ACTIVITIES: I’m a librarian and a waitress, I have two dogs, I read and sew a lot, and I like to go on nice dates with my wife, so my wardrobe is extremely varied. I have some work-appropriate dresses, skirts, tops, and wrap sweaters for the libraries (no, I do not wear pencil skirts and crew-neck cardigans!), jeans and casual tees for the restaurant, nice tees and tanks for dates, and some comfy, washable, easy clothes for morning walks/playing with the pups and lounging around the house. I feel like the variety of needs my wardrobe has to meet means that it really doesn’t have enough items in it; I re-wear the same outfits every week! It also means that items that can do double duty (library clothes and date clothes, or restaurant clothes and lounging clothes) are super valuable in my wardrobe. Bright pink blazer and black wrap sweater, I’m looking at you!


It’s so interesting to look at the things that get the most wear and think about why that is!

For me, it’s black knit dresses. Comfortable, versatile, easy to dress up or down, and I feel sleek in them.

laura k

I’m also a librarian, but I love to play with the stereotypes of “librarians” with my wardrobe. I love wearing pencils skirts and crew neck cardigans, and wearing my hair in a bun. That’s part of the “community” aspect I was thinking about for myself, being part of a community that has such a funny history of what it’s aesthetic is believed to be.


All these stories in the comments are going to be very interesting to read!

My history:
First, I majored in Fashion in college. There I was exposed to many style icons, to the history of fashion, to books full of pictures. I was avid for reference, and I was constantly updating them. My favorite designers were Vivienne Westwood and Yohji Yamamoto. I loved plaid, black and deconstructed outfits. That, however, doesn’t mean I wore them. I only got bits of it into my wardrobe, not only because the clothes and fabrics I liked were hard to find, but also because I am a very reserved person. I don’t like to call attention to myself.
Fast forward almost a decade, I am in love with classical beauty and minimalism. The adult life has taught me that I want less of the unnessential so I can have more time and money to enjoy what I really want in life. My tastes aren’t crystalized yet, but I feel I am close to finding my fashion persona. The Wardrobe Architect was a great surprise for me, and I think it will get me there!


I have a definite mismatch between what I like to sew, and what is practical and suitable for me to wear. I love to make dresses, but in my job as a building surveyor I am either working at home where no one sees me, or travelling to meetings with building contractors or such. I probably only spend one day a week in an office where a dress can be worn most appropriately.

I’m quite curvy in shape and not very tall, and have slowly realised that I need to emphasise my waist, or ideally just above my waist as this is my slimmest part. This is hard to do in separates – at least for me – which I think is why I like dresses so much.

However many things I make I end up wearing the same ones over and over again… I’d love to build a wardrobe that was genuinely wearable!


My culture is a big influence and has always been in how I dress. I’m black (which specifically is some west indian, native american, and french). I love, love colour! My mother, grandmother and aunts dress(ed) colourfully! I loved it! Most of the time when I sew my clothing, each piece’s colour represents also my mood at the time!


I love that! Color is so emotional. It’s really cool to look back at something you made and, based on the color, remember how you felt at the time.

Lisa G.

Number 2, philosophy – I don’t like to wear anything that is revealing or tight, and I know this is a result of my religious beliefs, although there isn’t anything specific in Catholic teaching about it, to my knowledge. I just don’t feel comfortable dressed like that. But I may still admire a photo of a certain fashion if it seems well made or whatever, even though I’d never wear it. I’m not out to pass judgments. So, I like skirts and dresses, and always below my knees. As for low necklines and see-through tops – it seems that it’s getting more difficult to find things that look good on me and fit with my ideas of what I want to wear, so I am realizing I have to be more flexible in my outlook, e.g., wearing layers or whatever it takes.

Annette Tirette

History: I used to go to a school in a rich neighbourhood, where most kids would dress in expensive brands, all very preppy. I quickly noticed that anyone who didn’t fit into that image could become a target, so I tried to make myself as neutral as possible for six years. When I finally left and went to art school I really started to get interested in clothes and my own style began to develop. I evolved from loads of experiments to a very vintage look onto something that I like to describe as ‘confused witch’. A lot of my clothes are still vintage inspired, but I mix in loads of other influences. I can even see the evolution on my blog, even though I’ve only been writing for a little over a year!


Oh my gosh, “confused witch”… I love that!

Annette Tirette

I think it stems from my not-so-secret wish to have been a Hogwarts graduate…

abby @ thingsforboys

I think we all have that wish don’t we?!


BODY: I’ve always been struck by how drastically different I can feel about my body depending on what I’m wearing. Some outfits make me feel sexy, fun, and generally confident about my body, while others make me feel dowdy, frumpy, and plain. It has been a lifelong process to “train” my eye for fashion when I shop for clothes – I used to go for styles that I loved on the hanger, but ended up looking terrible on me, and finally discovered that some pieces that didn’t stand out on the hanger actually look great.

Now that I sew for myself, of course, this process has changed. Sewing has been as much a journey of body discovery and appreciation as anything else. I have always loved empire and high waist styles. I used to think that was because I was “fat” and needed to hide my tummy – I have a very solid abdomen and small waist to bust ratio. However, through my sewing, I have discovered that high waists look good on me because the narrowest point on my body is much higher than a “typical” waistline, and has nothing to do with weight at all! I’m also a sucker for poofy skirts for a similar reason – extra width around my legs creates the illusion of a smaller width around my waist, since the eye has something wider to compare with it.

Interestingly, the reasons for my bodily structure actually relate to ACTIVITIES – I spent many years training to be a professional opera singer, and that has affected my body. I didn’t realize it until recently, but I think that my extra-solid abdominal region is at least partially the result of learning to breathe properly for singing. I also have extra-wide shoulders and straighter posture because of my singing, as well as my piano and ballet training. Now I can appreciate my body as a result of my artistic endeavors instead of as a problem.

Now that I finally understand my body structure, I understand what flatters my body and what doesn’t. Just because a garment doesn’t look good on me doesn’t mean I’m ugly – it just means I have to find a different one. This has been an enormously freeing realization – I *can* look good in my clothes, and I don’t have to randomly guess at what will work!


Culture & Body – I have a parent from France, so I’ve been somewhat exposed to the culture, and having visited a few times as a kid has influenced the way I view the body and popular silhouettes. In North America, the desirable silhouette is very fake and barbie-like, and the bras here are designed to create that super perky, round, padded, push-up look to make the breasts more obvious, while at the same time concealing all evidence that nipples exist. In France, a natural look is more common, and it’s not unusual to see a hint of nipple poking through a shirt – it’s just not a big deal there. The female body is embraced as it is, and not shamed.

I’ve spent plenty of time trying to conform to the culture around me by wearing jeans and restrictive bras, but now I want to be comfortable – and I want to be me. Yet, as a shy person, I don’t want to be stared at. So, my ideal wardrobe would allow me to be comfortable, feminine, and real, with enough coverage to avoid attracting unwanted attention. I’m just not quite sure how to achieve that!


My body is strong, it is capable, it has grown and fed three babies (two at one time), it has carried me through many challenges; I will not shame it for not fitting into fashion’s standards. I have a large bust, ubber to some. It is impossible to find things that fit my bust and not be gigantic everywhere else. The extra fabric necessary to cover my bust, tents all around the rest of my torso and no one realizes the sweet waist and curvy hips I have. I feel good in clothing that is fitted through the bust, torso and hips. I feel good in fashions that embrace the hourglass figure/Marilyn Monroe body type. I feel alienated in clothing that is loose, too big and hides my shape. I hate when I have to wear a suit. I have no button up the front shirts that fit me, or a suit jacket that doesn’t make my bust look obscene and make me feel like the Hulk because of my muscular biceps.


I love how you embrace the way you look!


Thank you! It’s taken a while to reach this point, and a big part of it has been realizing the modifications I need for sewing at home.

I will never be a size 2, and my proportions are the same as I was when I was 18, they are just larger numbers. I am OK with that.

I have shunned shopping RTW because it makes me feel bad about myself, and I have nothing to feel bad about.


My awful experience trying to buy pants after multiple pregnancies made me the committed sewist I am today. I am not letting my body be my enemy anymore. I am adventurous and love novelty patterns, crazy shapes and just letting ‘playclothes’ be my watchword. Since much of my basic wardrobe is black or brown (from my monochromatic days in the office), matching is not a problem!

I love this conversation! More, kids, more!


I so strongly identify with you here! My body spans about four different sizes (including a bust that’s way larger than average for my frame), and it’s so hard to go shopping for clothes and not be empty-handed and in tears by the end of the experience!

I sew too slowly to create an entire handmade wardrobe, but RTW that fits as well as my handmade items is almost impossible to find!

I did finally find a company that sells clothes for women with our body type. They’re based in the UK, but their clothes are gorgeous. I just ordered some bras from them (my size is uncommon and expensive here in the US), and I’m super excited about them. Anyway, if you’re looking for some resources for less frustrating RTW to supplement your sewing, the company is called Pepperberry. I also recently found a blog called Bras and Body Image that looks like it has a lot of good resources.


Body – When I was in high school and college, I was really self-conscious about my body, and looking back, I don’t know why! I’m much more comfortable with myself and in my own skin now, and I wear things that are flattering versus what’s trendy in stores (because they aren’t often mutual). One thing I love about sewing is being able to avoid being stuck with unfortunate trends that are ubiquitous in retail – another thing I love is that sewing makes me be honest with myself about my assets and less-than-assets when it comes to my body. So while I do sew with climate and activity in mind, I am trying to focus in on shapes and proportions that I feel good in and I look good in, and maybe try things that I wouldn’t have considered when I was younger. (Example: I refused to tuck in a shirt until I was like 30. I would have never looked a a high-waisted skirt like the Ginger – and now its one of my favorites!)


I haven’t done my homework yet… but could we maybe have a Flickr group for the non-Instagrammers?


As a child I really liked skirts and dresses, but switched to dressing in boys clothes around 3rd or 4th grade. This continued until the 9th grade where I realized that all the other girls were wearing the same type of outfits and voila my awakening to fashion! Not that I was very successful at trying to blend in! :D

Money has always been a strong factor for me. Growing up, clothing (rather an excess of it) was considered an extravagance rather than a need -and I still have a tendency to think that way. I never plan to shop for clothes, and spontaneous shopping trips often result in returned items- because I don’t *need* anything. Fabric shopping has happened less and less in the last few years because I definitely buy fabrics I like to look at and not necessarily what I will wear. Also I’ve had less time for sewing. But that part is over now.

I think I do okay with dressing myself in general. But I can do better, and it would behoove me to invest a little bit more in how I present myself. I’m a fun person… it’s perfectly acceptable to have fun with my clothes sometimes :)


Reading these responses and mulling over my own has made me realize just how big an influence money has had on the way I dress. I grew up lower middle class in California, surrounded by people who dressed very casually and paid almost no attention to what they wore, some because of personality and some because they had little money. I moved to the East Coast as a young adult, and at first, even buying enough clothes to dress for the seasons seemed extravagant to me. I have a huge mental block about spending money on clothes, so I tend to dress safely because my ingrained frugality tells me that every item of clothing I own has to go with everything else and I can’t buy a new one unless the old one is worn out.


I have the same “mental block” as you about spending on clothes! Trying to be frugal sometimes gets me in trouble, because I buy cheap things or clothes that are on sale but don’t fit my style. I try to convince myself that spending on more quality items is good, but it’s still a struggle for me. Maybe once we invest in a few quality pieces (that we make or buy), our outlook might change for the better.


At home we have a ‘rule’ to first heat our body and only if that’s not sufficient we raise the thermostat. This means in winter we layer more. We also have polar-fleece-sweaters and extra warm socks for at home. Usually that’s not necessary, but if you’re sitting still for a longer time and it’s freezing outside, it comes in handy. I have enough at home clothes, it’s usually a mix of new and old clothes.

I go to work on my bicycle and as I sweat quickly I sometimes need to change my shirt when I arrive at work. Mostly I just wear clothing that breathes very well, recently I’ve discovered bamboo rayon. It’s amazing how I can wear this multiple active days without smelling. Bamboo rayon is very flimsy to work with though, it’s been a challenge cutting it! I can get it only in very limited colors and no prints. My cycling wardrobe needs more options right now. My cycling wardrobe should also be fit for my work as it’s a nuisance to have to change at work. Rain and wind resistant gear is also a necessity. I would love making these myself but finding affordable fabric that I like is proving difficult.

My work wardrobe can be casual to more dressed up. It mainly has to be clean and in a good condition. If I can wear self-made clothes it’s a plus because I’m a salesperson at a fabric shop. Socially I wear the same as at work. At the moment I don’t have enough work/social clothes. They need to be in good condition and well-made. I’m not confident enough to wear many of my self-made clothes (being a bit of a perfectionist and fear that the customers will see the imperfections). Also many of my bought clothes age quickly. I’ve tried going for brands like Esprit believing they still make quality items, but alas it wasn’t so.


BODY: I’m a 5-5 pear-shaped gal, and for the longest time I dressed in a way to camouflage my prominent hips. I also used to voraciously read “style advice” that said, “Pear shapes should not wear this or that” and accepted it without question. However, I realized only about a month ago that certain styles that I thought were “verboten” for pear shapes are very appealing to my aesthetic: I like clean lines, classic colors and classic shapes. I recently (like, last week) bought a pair of skinny black pants, and I just love them, despite the fact that as a pear shape, I’m not “supposed” to wear skinny pants (unless I’m wearing them with a tent-like top, which I refuse to do)! Style “rules” be damned: wear what you love!


Sara I so agree. Pear shape here too and I have totally found that skinny jeans and pants are the most flattering. I think perhaps because they elongate the leg and therefore draw the eye down creating a longer leaner silhouette. Those “guides” should just be thrown out. Wear what feels good to you!


Yes! Also, those rules assume you WANT to camouflage your hips. I think curvy hips in tight pants or a slim skirt is really sexy and womanly!


All these rules! They all just assume that everyone should be ashamed of not conforming to the so-called “ideal” figure. We should all somehow be trying to disguise the shamefully large (or small) parts with clever clothing tricks. I know its not all about what other people think about our bodies but I have more compliments about the way I look when I break the rules and wear something a woman with my body “shouldn’t” than when i stick to the rules. Sometimes the bits that we are so desperately trying to hide are, to other’s unbiased eyes, our best assests. I agree with Sarai. I love pear shaped figures. They are incredibly sexy! Enjoy strutting in those skinnies!


Thanks Sara, until reading your comment I’ve never even questioned a whole host of “rules” I adhere to about what “suits” my shape. Maybe I like some of these aspects of clothing and will keep them, but maybe I could try some others and see how I go.


That is so interesting as I so don’t feel at all comfortable in skinny jeans (pear shaped as well). I just don’t like the look of me in them. It just shows what we wear is so much a personal thing, as it should be..

But I do wear straight skirts.. I agree with Saria, these “guides” need to be tossed very, very far away. If you like you in what you wear, that is all that counts.

Now I just need to get over my issues.. Ha..


Activities and Body rule the roost here. My “work uniform” rules my days at least 4 days per week. I’m a Pilates instructor! I live in lycra on those days and it has taken me a long, long time to feel totally comfortable with that. And I have what most people would say is a “good body”, but I feel it’s angular and pointy where there should be curves (I have hips, pear shaped ones, but they are not nicely rounded more sticky outy because I am skinny) and I have no boobs. Breast feeding took what were the very small boobs I had and left them drained (I am proud of their natural abilities though). On my days off work I live on jeans and tops/sweater in the winter. I looooooove jeans. But the tops needs to be nice, not tees or sloppy, and definitely not button front shirts, they look ridiculous on me.

In summer I love a good dress, but it’s gotta have simple lines and a skimming silhouette. I figured out the aline dresses of the 70’s are spot on for me. Loose or drapey styles swamp my small frame and look ridiculous. I love wearing prints even though this limits my capacity to mix and match and this project has totally helped me figure out why I do prints!

Prints soften a silhouette, skimming over areas you prefer not to highlight. Solids tend to be more unforgiving. Also I DON’T DO ACCESSORIES. Seriously I wear my wedding and engagement rings and nothing else, not even a watch. My prints are my bling, my accessories. I’m so pleased to have worked that out!!!!! I made if sound like I have huge body issues, but I don’t, I am more comfortable in my skin than ever before and that’s partly down to sewing my own wardrobe – I figured out what works for me and feel 100% comfortable with that.


Oh my goodness, feels like you wrote this comment for me:) now it makes sense why I love prints and never get around to wearing accessories!
I have a similar body shape, quite tall, straight up and down…


History : At high school, I was shy. I just tried to be neutral, not being noticed. After I started a Degree in chemistry. It was a “men’s world”. I spent my days with cheap jeans and simple top. It was also appropriate with the lab work.
My first job was being a science teacher. I kept my jeans.
Now I’m working in an office so I can wear dresses and skirts/trousers with pretty blouses.

Body : I’m tall (really). It’s really hard for me to find THE jeans or THE dress… My weight is playing yoyo. It’s a difficulty when you have to choose a size.

My English isn’t very perfect, I’m just a french speaking sewing girl.


I suppose history has the biggest influence on my wardrobe. I say this because there are just habits I can’t break that started all the way back in high school. Can we say biggest tomboy ever? Though, now I do enjoy wearing dresses, I still dress far too casual for my professional, office job. Jeans and t-shirts just don’t cut it anymore.

When I do spend the time to make my own outfits and dresses, I immediately gravitate towards the crazy and fun patterns. It takes everything within me to make grown up choices! The good news is, I think I’ve finally hit a point where I’m ready to make the changes that my wardrobe so desperately needs, and break these bad habits.

Judy Lemieux

Culture & Body: The influence of my immigrant parent’s bavarian and eastern european culture, as well as my mom’s professional seamstress/tailor work always had a strong influence on what I wore. Before I began to sew my own clothes, my mom made everything I wore and no one was the wiser! I’m quite tall and broad shouldered and now a bit overweight. Though they don’t look ideal on my current figure and I haven’t worn them since my skinny teens and 20s, I still find bright colored ethnic designs and dirndl skirts/dresses adorable. I’m slowly but surely losing the extra weight and I’m hoping to find (re-find?) my style now, regardless of size, because what’s in my closet is all over the place!

sarah sky

” Often we use clothing to signal that we’re a part of some group. Maybe that group is “rich people,” or “bookish intellectuals” or “geeks who don’t care about fashion.”

That is the superficial level of the story, and it doesn’t take much thought to tell it. In fact, everyone speaks about themselves through their clothing, no matter what. There is always a story to be read.”

you are probably one of the first people who i think has very similar ideas on what fashion is in a context of what you wish to portray. (here you are recommending a way to find one’s “authentic” self through sleuthing with history, etc.) As a sociologist, I’d like to add that what we wear, tattoos, piercings, jewelry, makeup, etc. is all a part of what is called “Social Indicators.” Because society is often organized in a way that denotes groups defined by “outsiders” being able to identify with people based on social indicators is a very important societal aspect for acceptance and behavior.

I do not dress according to my history, or many of the variables listed (except activities because i do a lot of messy things).

When we can start to dissect this in our own lives we may realize how bendable and create-able our own images really can be and we can begin to have the life we want. Seriously.


Sarah, it may have something to do with the fact that I recently re-read Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. I first read it in grad school and it had a profound effect on me.

My point of view has shifted a bit since then, but I still don’t really believe that there is one true “authentic” self that we need to uncover. I think it’s something we construct for ourselves and others.

But we still each have a different collection of experiences and circumstances and a different perspective on how we want to engage with the world. I love the idea of celebrating those differences.


I live in L.A. We don’t really have weather here. Coats, which I love, are not generally comfortable to wear. It is too warm(not that I’d give up my L.A. weather for Coat weather). Sweaters, which I also love, can’t really be layered like I could when I lived in the midwest and I can’t really stand to wear my favorite chunky knits. Also the temperature changes a lot from morning to noon and then to night so I have to wear thin layers. I got stuck in a fashion rut of jeans and t-shirts with a light cardi or hoodie over it. However because it is L.A. people here are really stylish so I always feel like I look boring and not creative at all. In the midwest I would probably be fine with this uniform, but in L.A. I want to look better. There is a great scope for inspiration here.


History – I grew up in a very “vanilla” family and was expected to have a very mainstream/business professional kind of look. It took me until after I had graduated college (fashion design, go figure) to accept that my style and personality didn’t really match, but by then I was working at the GAP where the dress-code pretty much kept me stuck in a rut. My personal style did start to evolve for a little while, but then I had kids and reverted back to my “safe and acceptable” wardrobe of jeans and tees. In the past few months I’ve realized that I had gotten really lazy and the Mom style had taken over full force. Since then I’ve been trying to figure out what an adult version of me would actually wear.
Body – It’s crazy hard to figure out your wardrobe when your hair color changes frequently. What the heck matches raspberry pink, dark blue AND bright red? Black, white, and khaki get boring really fast.

Steph Skardal

I enjoy reading through what influences everyone, because some people are so different than me!

For me it’s mostly Activities: I work from home part-time (at a computer), mixed with being a mom full-time to a 10 month old, and I’m quite active. I choose mostly comfortable clothes that allow me to work & exist at home in a general lazy manner, but I appreciate when this style carries over to something that I can wear when I run out for errands and not look like a slob :) Because I’m fairly active, I think that exists at an intersection with active style wear and comfortable clothes to wear around the house during the day. There’s a bit of Body Influence as well, because I will go for clothes that cover up my postpartum body flaws.

I’ve just been getting back into sewing for my daughter and a bit for my husband and me. I always admire so many dress patterns, but my lifestyle hardly calls for any dresses. I think I’ve worn a dress twice in the last year!


Activities: I run around a lot, so I have to feel comfortable in my clothes. That also means I wear running shoes to work, as I stand/ walk all day and the perfect pair of work-shoes is yet to be found. I can’t wear clothes that don’t allow for enough mobility, and I can’t wear my hair down (I’m a med-school student). I’m trying to combine what I find beautiful, with what I find comfortable.


When I was little, I always wore dresses. I don’t have a single memory of wearing a pair of blue jeans or even owning a pair until I was in middle school. But I have very fond memories of all the beautiful dresses I wore. One of my favorites was a blue velvet Christmas dress with a white satin collar (this was circa 1995).

Once I started trying to dress like the “cool” girls with their jeans and Abercrombie clothes, I got sucked in and really lots myself. I just tried to be like everyone and hoped it would make me more popular (it didn’t). It really wasn’t until I was in college that I started to realize who I wanted to be, not who I thought I should be. It was a big boost for my confidence in myself, but my wardrobe is still quite lack luster. T-shirts and jeans are my go to choices and I hate it.

If I could wear a dress everyday, I would. I love the feeling of getting “Dressed Up” without actually being dressed up, but I hate going shopping and almost every dress I have made for myself makes me look like I am 12 :(


You said exactly what I did in high school, try to be like everyone else and hope it made me more popular. (Except I couldn’t afford to shop at those stores!) Doesn’t it seem so silly now?!


My body type has always been a huge factor in the way I dress – first it was to cover up the curves I was uncomfortable with, but now it’s to embrace them!


History: My style has evolved enormously since I was a teenager. When I was 16, I wore purple corduroy pants and Dr. Martens, now I wear pencil skirts and handknitted 40s style cardigans. In my opinion, it’s not very special, but not very boring, or what you see at the shops either.
What remains the same, is that I was/am very shy and didn’t/don’t like to stand out too much. However, for some reason that didn’t stop me from wearing what I wanted or now want. I remember then people telling me how original my style was, and come to think of it, they still do.

laura k

You sound just like me!


Like most teenagers, I searched for my identity for a while. Fashion-wise, I was always something of a tomboy, even as a small child. In high school I went to a private school where 80 to 85% of the population was male. We had a sucky dress code that was not yet adapted for girls, so I wore a lot of pants and polo shirts. Around 15 years old, I decided i’d had enough of being “one the boys”. This resulted in me clumsily trying to be a girly-girl all of the sudden, complete with short skirts and frilly tops, which looked pretty ridiculous. When I attended college, I embraced by androgyny and my love of past fashion by wearing bold, rebelious and fearless clothing that mixed masculine and feminine. I had a mohawk, wore ripped jeans under school-girl skirts with dress shirts and ties. I have never felt quite as confident and sexy as that period in my life, probably because I didn’t give a shit about what others thought. Gradually my style got toned down when I attended University and moreso when I started working at a private school.

These days, I am still in love with vintage fashion with a rock and roll edge, but I don’t feel outrageous looks are really me. I wouldn’t mind standing out, but not for the same reasons I did in my early twenties. I’d like to look my age, edgy and put together while being a little rebellious. I am still struggling with balancing my feminine and masculine sides, so there are things that haven’t changed. Most of the time when I dress up, I feel too girly-girl or overdressed. When I dress casualy, I feel frumpy. There is no middle ground! I think lack of confidence is my major obstacle in finding my signature style.


Body is probably my biggest influence as to what I wear at the moment. It’s odd because I am both proud of how shapely I am and self conscious at the same time. I don’t feel like I was as confident when I weighed 120lbs, but now that I’m in the 160’s I love how womanly I look. However not being use to all these curves makes me question what I choose. Am I still picking things for my slim body just in a bigger size? I break most of those out dated figure rules like stripes and form fitting clothing in the hip area. I stall a lot on sewing for myself because I’m always saying I will lose a few pounds.
Activities would be the next thing. My ideal self would get dressed up in pretty dresses and makeup everyday, but my stay at home mom lifestyle makes it easy for me to slip into frump mode. I hate it but I have not sewn enough for myself to consistently be able to dress like that ideal.
I’ve really enjoyed reading every one else’s influences!


History and Culture: My cultural background is Italian Catholic in Australia, and both my mother and grandmother have been big influences on the way I dress. “Dignity” and being above reproach from their community was a big thing with both of them, so they always dressed more formally than many of those around them the general Australian population. So do I to this day. For example, I’ll only wear thongs (flip flops) to the beach, never for anything else, which makes me highly unusual around here! Modesty(now, there’s a word that isn’t used much in the 21st century) and being appropriately dressed for the occasion was also drummed into me, so I always wore dresses with sleeves, high-ish necklines, skirts at the knee or longer, pants only when the occasion allowed (for example, NEVER to church) as I grew up. I’m not so strict on myself now I am an adult, but I do find that I tend to dress more formally than my peers at work and in the community, and I think that is definitely a product of my culture.


Don’t worry Paola – I have an anglo background and I only wear thongs around the house. They never leave the house..

I own petticoats,slips and wear pantyhose. I am very particular in this sense.. modest? No I don’t think so.. just taking pride in your appearance. Don’t get the wearing a dark bra under a light shirt?

As I tell the young ones at work, I look in the mirror before I leave the house .

One thing I will say about Australia, it is lacking in a sense of style. It is so lacking here, no matter what state you are in.

Isaboe Renoir

1. How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystalize? Have they changed over the years and why? I don’t really know how my history has affected my style, and I really couldn’t say when my tastes crystallized. I would guess my style is ever-evolving more so than a static state. I’m more than sure my tastes have changed; likely more in some ways or less so in others than I think. I’ve definitely wanted a more “adult” look the past few years. Or at least, wanted to move away from an adolescent, early 20’s look by finding my own “mature me” style – very few knits, almost no t-shirts and “real” clothing from wovens. I like the movie look from the 30’s through the 50’s; a cross between Katherine Hepburn and Grace Kelly would be nifty. I enjoy dressing for the occasion as well; can’t stand that so many people wear exercise clothing outside the gym or pajama pants outside the house. Not that you have to wear pearls and pashminas to the grocery (unless you like that), but just get dressed to go out the house. Imagine my confusion in my first sewing class when we were making “pajama pants”. I chose a pretty eyelet batiste as it was high summer and I thought they’d be nicely cool; the teacher kept insisting that I was some kind of vixen for choosing such a sheer fabric, wasn’t I worried that people would see through them? Imagine her confusion when I said no one but my husband and cat would see me in them….
2. How does your philosophy, spirituality or religion affect your aesthetics or buying habits? Or, what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected? I don’t care for too much flesh, or raunchy looks; I’m not much on uniforms or following fashions or trends either. I would prefer to buy clothing of natural fabrics (or at least ones woven well enough that I won’t itch), made by people in good work conditions for living wages; yes that means clothing would cost much more than it does now. It also makes it very hard to buy any clothing in this way because people who do make these clothes either don’t make them to fit my shape, or don’t make styles that fill my needs – i.e., they’re mostly tree-hugger/hippie type clothes, no ball gowns for cruises. Thus my choice to sew my own clothing. (I don’t say that to offend anyone; though I have hugged many trees in my life, I’m just not at all a “hippie tree-hugger”.)
3. How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older? I don’t know; we were very poor, so new clothing was rare and most of what I had was hand me downs, even as the eldest child. What I usually got was lower end clothing, though I would occasionally get a few better pieces from relatives who could afford nicer clothes. I am and have been aware for some time of the difference between a well-made piece from quality fabric and big box store clothes. Only in the past few years have I made an effort to purchase “quality over quantity”, as opposed to the “more is more” paradigm I grew up with.
4. How are you influenced by the people around you, including friends, family, and other communities you’re involved in? Hmm, I would think not very much as I dress so differently from everyone I know, though perhaps this encourages me to continue to be myself. As an aside, I do see attitudes in the sewing community that are not how I want to be, so I make an effort to stay true to my own path. I.e., no sergers for me, hand sewing is not evil and spending 10 days on one garment is not a sin. (The ladies in my local sewing community think I’m odd/ alien for not having a serger and sewing things that take longer than 30 thirty minutes to put together. Thy also think it’s weird that I make my own bread and cake from scratch, as well as make my own mayonnaise or take days to prepare one meal “Honey don’t you know that stuff comes in a jar/box/frozen package at the store?” And yes they’re being sincere, not sarcastic.) Around here it seems sergers are for sewing clothes, “sewing machines” are behemoth embroidery machines that cost more than my car and are for quilting. Sorry, I digress…though those embroidery machines do make beautiful lace.
5. How do your day to day activities influence your choices? Well a lot of course; I need clothes to live my life. Type of activity is anywhere from 50%-90% of my decision on clothing. Specifically my activities are: housework, gardening, exercise, outdoor activities, loungewear, day-to-day wear (running errands), casual social wear (luncheons and casual dinners), formal social wear (fancy parties), vacation wear, ball room dance clothing, clothing for teaching cooking and cooking for work.
6. Does the place you live in inform the way you dress? How does climate factor in? Again, well of course location plays a role, climate dominate in that area. I live on the Gulf Coast and we have many more months of warm to very hot weather than other parts of the country. In that I live in a suburb near a large city is not a factor; I would dress nearly the same as I do now if I lived in a rural area. Heck I think if I were a hermit I’d still like a lovely dressing gown (like the bi-colored one Norma Shearer wears in The Women), the difference being I’d only have one that I wore until threadbare.
7. In what way does body image affect your choice in clothing? What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body? Mostly in that I can’t find clothes that fit well off the rack. I’m too small for fat lady clothes but too big for “misses”. I’m comfortable in my size and shape and most people don’t think of me as fat, or at least don’t treat me that way. I like clothes that skim my body, show off my figure. A V-neck sweater and below-knee skirt, scarf and hat, kitten heel pumps would be my go-to outfit. Nothing too tight, too low cut, too short, too raunchy.


History/philosophy: I actually remember thinking a lot about how I felt I ought to dress when I was a teenager in order to be “taken seriously”. This usually translated to avoiding girly/feminine things (it makes me kind of sad that this was my relationship to femininity at the time although that has long since changed) I flopped over to a more girly and dressed up look in college after sewing introduced me to vintage styles and gave me a different way of seeing femininity than the Abercrombie and Fitch type style that most of the girls wore in my high school. Sewing has really let me re-embrace my girly side without the reservations I used to feel and let me focus more on what I really like and enjoy wearing.

cynthia gehin

After a work-mate mentioned that I dressed like the UPS delivery man: I realized that I was far too comfortable in loose drab garb. I have struggled with extra weight all my life and felt dark colors were ‘probably’ more slimming. So I checked out one of the businesses that access your individual color palette. It was a real eye-opener for me! Having the third eye show me the difference certain colors had against my complexion and hair and actually giving me a fabric swatch ‘palette’ to work from has saved me $$ and time when I shop RTW or fabric.

Mary Pat

I did the same thing, cynthia. It has helped me dress in clothes that flatter my complexion and reduces the number of things I look at. It streamlines shopping so much which I appreciate. I grew up in uniforms and didn’t realize how much I appreciated that I didn’t have to pick my clothes out each morning. This color palette has helped me create a uniform of sorts for myself.

The Nerdy Seamstress

Although I hate to admit it, it’s body. Throughout my life, I have a love/hate relationship with my body. Currently, I do love my body, but I feel weighed down. Since I started sewing last year, I literally stopped working out. So, health is a big issue with the clothes I wear. I used to be comfortable in fitted clothing, but I don’t feel so comfortable now. I wore a fitted dress recently and I felt nothing but uncomfortable in it.

I do have a curvy body, so I like to wear clothes that accentuates my waist so there’s definition. I like the romantic, floaty styles but I don’t think it works well on my shape. I can appreciate it from afar.

I want to work on my wardrobe that complements my body and something that I feel good in.


I’m in the weird position that the bulk of my wardrobe is normal looking stuff but the few items I wear again and again are more theatrical. Stuff that comes under the vague post apocalyptic arts and crafts/hipster nerd aesthetic. I don’t know if that’s a thing.

The wear again and again stuff is definitely informed by my CULTURE and PHILOSOPHY. I’m very much a part of nerd culture and I’m very much a social sceptic even though I’m a socialist and love nonreligious apocalyptic and post apocalyptic themes in fiction and media.


Oh Sarai…you have opened up a wonderful venue to share. For me, I have to say three categories…culture and philosophy. I am Latina, born and raised in Colombia, on the coast. My wardrobe consisted of long skirts with lots of beautiful flounce (not ruffles), but loose, flowing dresses. Then I came to the States and grew up in the 80’s. Lots and lots of black was introduced into my wardrobe…I am a Christian, which defines me and the way I present myself to the world.

My clothing preferences continue to be skirts, this time they tend to reach the knee or a little above it, boots, high heels and flowing tunics. I find I have been able to incorporate my culture with a modern modesty.

Body has never been issue for me. Not because I am thin, but because in my culture women with curves are considered quite beautiful … so trying to be thin has never been a goal of mine :0)

I am an inverted triangle, so tunics on top are a wonderful addition to my everyday wardrobe. Do I love my body? I enjoy it and I am comfortable in my own skin. I am 48 years old, and a mother of three, my body has changed and I am OK with that :0)

I am thoroughly enjoying this topic Sarai…thank you so much for opening the forum for all of us to share.



Megan A.

History: I remember sitting in high school Geometry class, looking around, and realizing EVERYONE including the teacher was wearing blue denim jeans and t-shirt. I decided right then and there I was never wearing jeans again. For 15 years I didn’t own a pair of jeans. Yes, I still wore mostly pants, but colorful stuff like green plaid and purple corduroy – I am not afraid to stand out. I started wearing jeans again when the dark wash became very popular and it is still the only wash I will wear – I hate those fake faded jeans with an unrivaled passion. I’m trying to get away from the denim jeans again. I don’t want to be a cookie cutter anymore.


I completely agree with filtering out all the stuff you’re bombarded with every day. It has literally taken me 36 years to become comfortable with my personal style – classy, elegant with a touch of bookish. I always thought it was ‘boring’, that I should be more ‘individual’. I did the 50s kitch thing, but it never stuck. I tried the hippie thing but it never took either. I then took a serious look at what I was attracted to including the digital images I was collecting on Pinterest. I suppose I’m starting to become friends with that. I suppose I’m starting to not judge my style relative to someone else, but how comfortable I am wearing clothes. I suppose I’m realising that my style is OK as long as it suits me…’boring’ or not :P


The themes that came up over and over again as I did the worksheet: I have always struggled between wanting to be feminine, practical, comfortable, flattering and modest. What I like the best are dresses and skirts that let me hike, clean the house, care for kids but at the same time not look overdressed and fit into a social situation. Thanks for the exercise, it is really helping me focus in on what should be my priorities.


History: After school and college in small Midwestern cities–where fitting in meant a different sweatshirt every day of the week–I’ve banished hooded sweatshirts from my wardrobe. Even after having a baby and spending half my week chasing her I can still find ways to be comfortable and look pulled together. Actually I have one for the gym and one for painting. Maybe if I had had school uniforms or attended a different college my perspective would be different.

Kate McIvor

History: I grew up in California in the 1970’s. The cool adults were wearing bell-bottoms and polyester shirts. My mom shopped at Talbott’s. I wanted to be anything but “classic.” I went to college on the east coast with kids from New York City who were uber edgy with their ripped jeans and black on black on black. I couldn’t figure out how to dress like them. Now I find myself dressing mostly classic, but always with a twist, a subtle nod to the tackiness of California in the 70’s, or the coolness of those kids from NYC.


History: I was a tomboy for most of my early childhood, then a big-haired, tight-jeans-wearing mallrat once puberty kicked in, then a hippie when I decided to be “unconventional” in early high school, then a skater-hippie because my late-highschool boyfriend was a skater, then a vintage clothing collector/art student wearing some cRaZY things, then a thespian wearing crazy things in front of an audience, then a little overweight and lacking confidence (lots of baggy things), then a nursery worker in Carharrts with dirty knees, then an avid runner who lost the weight, then an early 30-something who wanted to feel sexy but had a limited budget so shopped at Forever 21 and wore some embarrassing ensembles.

Now I am a late 30’s gardener, homeowner, nutritional therapy student, infatuated with sewing my own clothing and trying to carefully build a wardrobe that REALLY suits me. I like to try new things (obviously) but I am also very attracted to the classic (I was raised in New England, after all). My inner tomboy wants to be comfortable, my inner hippie likes lots of layers and textures, my inner thespian and art student is always looking for a little drama, something really different. My ideal “style” would be to dress like Mary from Downton Abbey mixed with Annie Hall and Daenerys Targaryen and just a dash of gelfling.


Philosophy: I have always been drawn to more dramatic looks. Often, people say to me, “Only you could get away with that…” I found a fashion personality test that I took with my fashion class at the high school I teach at. I tested as “dramatic.” All of my students agreed with the test. I had never really thought about it, but it has been an eye opener for me, and I can see, now, what dictate many of my fashion choices. We, as a class, were able to identify many of the teachers into style categories: Classic, creative, natural, city chic, dramatic, etc. For instance, one of my last purchases were knee high, red cowboy boots covered top to bottom with embroidery. I love them!


Thanks for this post!
HISTORY: I come from a large family, my father has 8 siblings who all got married and had kids. And I was the only girl in all the years. So this side of the family really liked to dress me up in pink, lacy things, dresses,…I always hated it. The family from my mothers side all grew up at a farm. That was the part I really enjoyed. Wearing comfortable pants, jackets with lots of pockets and rain boots. All the things that can get dirty. I really developed a hatred of pink, you won´t find that colour anywhere in my wardrobe. I still dress very comfortable, which is kind of useful in my job as a kindergarten teacher, too. On occasion I “let out the girl in me” and put on a dress. I would like to wear dresses more often but I´m constantly cold, so that´s not really an option in the cold seasons.
Since about a year I came fascinated by historical clothing, victorian and edwardian in particular, and have made a few garments from that areas. I would love to be able to wear them on the street :-)

Katie Williams

This had me thinking a LOT, Sarai; I ended up writing an entire 1600+ word post about it!

I love this Wardrobe Architect series to bits. I can’t wait to see where you take it, and what else I might learn about myself through it.


Mine is body. I struggle with being a pear shape with a swayed back. Everything just makes my bum huge. I have in the last 12 months struggled with my weight and shape and now have a horrible midriff. I don’t think I have ever found my true style because of this. I know what not to wear but I don’t know what to wear.

The other issue I have that is not here is age. I am nearly 49, but don’t feel it and don’t quite look my age (look younger) , but I don’t know what to wear so I don’t look like mutton dressed as lamb or look old and dowdy. Age appropriate? I do I need to worry about this?

I know I love colour and floral, love dresses and pretty shirts and skirts. Hate looking for trousers/jeans because of my shape. Shorts! I don’t think so. I know I love looking at classic fashion as in 1930 to 1960’s and couture. I just don’t know if I can wear it. Maybe it is a confidence issue?

I have just emptied my wardrobe and I mean emptied. 7 bags of clothes to charity. I need help and I need direction. I don’t have the need for a wardrobe full of clothes, I just want something that I can feel good in.


Regarding “mutton dressed as lamb,” I must say that I have never in my life looked at a woman and thought “she’s not young enough to wear that.”

I do think our culture pushes women to be less visible as we age, and that definitely erodes the self confidence.


Loving this series already! For me I’d have to say activities and climate. I spend most of my time sitting in front of a computer so I want to be comfortable, and I often op for sweatpants over actual clothes and then feel frumpy and sloppy every time I catch my reflection. Climate is definitely a huge one as well. Growing up in Vancouver I was hampered by the rain. Living in LA indoor air conditioning meant cute skirts and shorts went out the window. Now that I’m back in Canada and moving to Ottawa in winter, the cold outdoors and heated indoors are going to be my biggest style hurdles. I also used to love wearing full skirted dresses, and stopped because they’d always get blown around by the wind! I never realized before this how big an influence climate has had over my (lack of) style.


History: always been in love with dresses and the magic aura they give you but too shy to wear them as a child/teenager…too worried about what the others might have thought about me.
My mother was not very much interested (read: NOT AT ALL) in the way she dressed, so she passed me this habit.
but my love for this ethereal and shining power of dresses never faded away, it just stayed.
so, from almost two years now, I’ve started my journey in the sewing community to see if can give myself a chance to create and wear what I’ve always dreamed only of.


I think body has been my biggest influence. Being petite (4′ 10″) slim yet curvy ( pretty much hourglass shape) I have always struggled to find clothes that fit, from the few retailers that produce petite lines. I would like to emphasise my waist without looking too fitted, but mostly end up wearing clothes that hide my figure. So I started sewing in an attempt to make clothes that fit, however I am finding it such a learning curve – not only the sewing techniques, but also how to alter patterns to fit. And when it comes to style I have realised that now I have the choice of what clothes to make I have no idea what my style is!

Activities are also a big influence. My place of work has changed from a corporate environment which was quite formal, to a studio which is quite casual ( and often cold) so find myself wearing black jeans, a long sleeved top and a jumper most days. Also I am at home a lot and seem to wear blue jeans and a top all the time just because it’s easy. I don’t feel this really expresses my personality, but don’t know how to get out of this rut.

I am really hoping that this Wardbrobe Architect series will help me!!!

Also any advice on altering patterns to be petite would be welcome!


Activities currently impact my wardrobe quite a bit. As a full time carer Mum I want to be comfortable (no restrictive clothes) and I often reach for jeans and t-shirts because it’s quick to put on, especially if I’m feeling over-busy or lacking in mental headspace. I love clothes and feel better about myself showing a bit more style though. Summer’s easier because so long as the ironing’s done (this is an issue) I can wear dresses. When I’m out & about locally I feel like I’m representing my handmade business so I like to wear either something I’ve made, even if only a small element of my outfit. I love colour, pattern.


COMMUNITY/HISTORY: I think my love to wear things that are a bit unexpected or just different to what people my age might wear comes mainly from me being an outsider at school. I jut recently graduated and, in the end, I couldn’t wait to get away from these people, who were not really my friends. Back in school, I didn’t care about their opinion on me at all and I wanted to show them that I was not seeking for their approval and that I didn’t care about them – I started to dress differently and experiment with my looks. Actually, it was nothing special at all, but in a class were people wear mostly Abercrombie and Hollister, wearing a colouful 50s dress or everything in black (men’s shoes, skinny jeans and layers) was something special. I hope, that with the help of Wardrobe Architect I’ll be able to define my style a bit more and learn what really suits me and my character! :)


Love reading all of the comments here. I think about these questions all of the time, and think someday I will write a clothing-themed memoir.

Culture is a big influence for me, but in many different ways, not just a nationalistic or ethnic way. For example…My elder sister is 15 years older than me. When growing up in rural western PA, she moved to NYC when she was 18, in the mid 60s. She was a swinging girl Friday who made all her own clothes. She was petit, and so would send her “last season” items to me, a young teenager, to wear in rural PA. You can imagine…I was laughed at. I had no idea why. Then, a year later, the clothes she sent that I had worn would be in style, a full year behind NY! I finally figured it out in high school, but by then I had moved on, I was wearing vintage, and I mean vintage. Long bustled skirts from the late 1800s, hats, etc. (my parents were antique dealers before it was fashionable, and it rubbed off on me…)

Culture also influenced me over the years when I travelled for business. Mongolia has a very unique cultural style, and I bought a jacket there I wear every now and then. They also make their own unique buttons out of stone spheres. I also wear men’s short vintage silk kimono jackets (I can’t recall the word for them), turned inside out (the linings in men’s kimonos have all sorts of interesting scenes, because they couldn’t wear something that busy, interesting, colorful, etc. on the outside… Too conservative for that! So they let all of the character and style shine in the linings. I attended a formal event in Bangladesh, where a colleague and I asked the hotel staff to dress us in the local sari-style. I improvised my top, and they noticed that it was not original! My colleague bought the right top and was well thought of for complimenting their culture. I think fast fashion and globalization has killed off a lot of the beauty that was local dress in many parts of the world. Sorry for rambling…great topic!


I like clothing-themed memoirs. This one called My Mother’s Wedding Dress is a favorite.


Wow, this has me baffled – mainly because I have only started to even think about clothing in the last few years. Before I would just wear whatever (I don’t even remember thinking about style or such things) and that was completely fine. I don’t think my clothing affected my life in any fundamental way. Now that I have started to sew a large part of my clothing I think about it much more, but kind of as a hobby. To me thinking about clothing and style is a pleasant pasttime but not a source of insecurity or impediment. So I have started to look at fashion and trying out a few things that I would never have considered a few years ago. I wear heels now fairly often – until a few years ago I did not even own a pair of heels. One thing that has not changed though: I HATE being too hot! Just hate it! So most of the time I wear layers so I can take one off. But people do comment when I walk around in a vest top when others wear a sweater :-)


Body: I like the way my body looks. I keep fueled with good food, even though I do horribly on the exercising side. My body has not changed much in height in 8 years, so I have been able to look and examine a certain set of clothes for a long time. I have a thin waist and generous hips and I like to accentuate my waist with almost everything I wear. I like dresses with seams at the waist, pencil skirts, wrap skirts that conform with my waist, fitted vests that make any baggy button-down magically conform to my curves. This isn’t a viable look for every weather, so when the boxy sweaters come out (the only boxy things I own) I but on skinny jeans to accentuate the only part of my body not wrapped up in huge sweaters. On another note, I do not feel the need to put on make up. Sure, my face is not perfect, as it gets pimples like anyone else, but it is still my face and I do not feel the need to cover up what nature gave me. I send my message primarily through my clothes, but the offshoot of that is when I dress in jeans and a t-shirt, most people assume I am very young, probably knocking at least three to four years off my age. Being young, I find this rather startling, but I probably won’t mind in a few more years.


Body & History: My body has history. It has done well for me. It has carried 5 children, birthed them, and nourished them for a year. It carries on with little sleep, and wishes for more time for exercise. It is not the body of a man, it is not the body of a teenage girl. I am a woman, a mother, and my body tells the story of my womanhood.


It is very interesting to think like this and I’m looking forward to the next exercise in this series. I wrote about all topics on my blog, for a sample I’m sharing my cultural piece here since once I got to thinking I realised how Swedish I really am (and trying to break out of it).

How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?

I grew up (and still live) in Sweden. During the eighties and early nineties the law of Jante was very strong in Sweden (at least in my/my parents’ circles). Another way of describing it is that Sweden is the land of lagom. This means that you shouldn’t try to stand out or think that you are better than anyone else. It is quite hard to explain if you haven’t grown up with it (see the “cultural significance” under the lagom link), but it means that you shouldn’t do anything to draw attention to yourself, you should blend in. So this portion, in combination with my not wanting to stand out really shaped me. This was phased out in the Swedish psyche during the nineties, but it’s still a part of us, if a small part. I’m trying to break free as it is no longer “un-Swedish” to do something different.

(The Law of Jante and lagom can both be found on Wikipedia)

gabriel ratchet

this is great. i don’t know about an overarching theme for myself…a combination of body and self-expression, i guess. i’ve been sewing since forever, and at first, it was because i could make things that mom said we couldn’t afford to buy, and because the little competitive jerk that lives inside me wanted to earn that blue ribbon. i was probably most productive in high school – no uniforms, but a dress code that required a skirt. one of my favorite things i ever made was a narrow, black dress with with white collar and cuffs. i loved it, and mom said she’d have died if anybody had made her wear that to school back in her day. and i could never wear the levi 501’s…. too straight up and down, which i am not. so the classic tailored, pleated pants that did work for me had to be made because they couldn’t be bought.
probably the thing that is most driving my wardrobe now at 56 is that i’ve quit coloring my hair. the silver that’s come in earns me a lot of compliments, but i find that my colors have gone from warm autumn to cool winter. i’ve been weeding out, and i look at my closet now, and it’s all black and grey, and cool blues.
i’m interested in unusual construction details, not prints or embroidery. comfortable now has to include the ability to layer and unlayer for personal thermal regulation, and i have really mangled feet, so i can’t count on a few inches of heel for balance. and i find that my clothes often serve as a back drop for my jewelry…. a lot of southwest silver and stones collected over the years, and gold based, more classic pieces and pearls that i’ve inherited.

Sara K

I’ll do a little more reflection on this later…

For now I just want to mention that reading this post totally made me understand why I had a sudden driving desire for a pair of cowgirl boots after I graduated and made plans to move out of Texas. (I’m a Pennsylvania native, and only was in Texas for grad school.) When I lived in Texas, it was apparent that I was in Texas. Once I left, I think I needed some sort of visual identifier to mark my 8 years there. I still don’t have them, so I don’t know how well that plan would really work, but it’s an interesting thought on why I wanted them.


It’s difficult to express who you are when you have no idea, not really. In the western fast paced civilization it is increasingly troublesome to know one self. There’s the objective self, the projected/perceived self and the desired self. The objective self changes with the changes in our lives and there are a lot of changes in the life of a contemporary woman compared to a woman who, say, lived a century ago. The projected self is influenced by the community you belong to, you sphere of relationships. But the desired self is a whole lot of different animal. Those trends you mentioned act especially on your desired self. The fashion trends are more often than not based on our current ideal image of a woman which is more resemblant of a young male, with its tubular shape, narrow hips and toned muscles… So, you see a wonderful designer dress and you try it and you find yourself with a choice: buy for the butt or buy for the boobs. I always refused to make that choice so I just left it there and that is why this last Christmas I bought myself a Laurel and I made my first dress since I was a toddler. Because ultimately the clothes you wear not only speak about who you are but also about who you want to be. And I for one, do not want to be post pubescent male but a pear-shaped woman as I am, and like me about 70% of the female population (measuring tape at hand). Out thighs, our butts and our tummies demonstrate that unlike the post-pubescent male we can carry a life inside of us other than ours and our bodies being the intelligent machines that they are found the most efficient way to store the energy we need to do so according to the climate we live in.


History: I think I must be a tomboy. I’ve never liked wearing dresses as a child and I will NOT wear pink. But, I’ve always loved playing dress-up and my family had a huge collection of awesome thrift-store dresses and accessories + old clothes from parents and grandparents. What I put on affects who I feel like I am. I’ve softened a bit as I’ve gotten older, and I now relish the fancy occasions where I can wear unusual things, including dresses. But day to day, no way.

I’m drawn to men’s wear big time and I’ve always resented the little ‘feminine’ details that get plastered to women’s versions of things: ruffles, embroidered flowers, pastels, etc… I think flannel, plaid, wool, and leather are CUTE!

I’ve worked most of my life in situations that dictate what I should wear: camp counselor, naturalist, deckhand. Lots of time spent outdoors in the elements, rain or shine. I’ve gone through my fair share of carharts and gortex. My life circumstances have shifted enough so that I have more options, but I still feel most myself in more rugged fashions.

I’m loving your new patterns!! I love your other ones, too, but couldn’t find a practical way to wear them that felt authentic. I’m loving this series, it will help me think about how I can branch out from T’s and jeans, but still feel like me!


Like others, my school uniform has a lot to answer for. All those years in a grey skirt put me off grey for life.

I have two wardrobes – my actual wardrobe and my fantasy wardrobe, which of course does not really exist. The fantasy wardrobe is full of classic glamour, fabulous fabrics and dresses to die for. The real one, on the other hand, consists of warm, practical, tough clothes, that can live up to life on a sheep farm.

My biggest issue is climate. Even in summer, it never gets really hot. Dresses are out of the question for me and cardigans are a major component.

I’m pretty happy with most of my clothes. But, ideally, I’d like to give my trousers a more unique look, without sacrificing any warmth, toughness, or practicality. I intend to start with adding some brighter colours to my legs.


BODY: As a new Mom, my self-image has really been through the wringer over the past few months. I am adjusting to the reality of my “new” body and my new role as a (temporary) stay-at-home parent.

I get into my feelings about this on m’blog:

Thanks so much for this series, Sarai!


My “profession”, which I think falls between activities and history, dictates my style, if one could even call it that. I’m a stay-at-home mom right now. My children, 8 yrs and 4yrs, are both in school, the latter for only half day. As some have mentioned, function is generally the basis for what I wear daily because of my job. I love sewing and have been telling myself I will make a handmade wardrobe for two years now, and most of what I have actually sewn has been for my kids or gifts and mending. I don’t like the way I dress most of the time. I often feel frumpy (perhaps a little body image in there), have nothing that matches and nothing new or well made. Part of that is because I can never justify buying myself nice stuff, and I am afraid of wasting what little money I can spend on fabric for a garment I won’t be successful at sewing. I’m quite tired of dressing like a bum in cheap t-shirts and jeans with holes in the knees that only marginally fit. This series, I hope, will help me out of my funk and find what my personal style is. Thanks for this!


I’m going with the shortest list of my lists: Community. I live in a very casual town, most people dress from REI (outdoor store). Artisans, writers, singers, songwriters, retirees, college students and more make up the community in where I live. I love that we can all interpret a different style……. I’d just like to define my style more.



I have always been, as my husband says it, a “plump” girl.

It defined my childhood and especially my teenage years, and the way I dressed back then – no skirts, no dresses, just baggy trousers and big baggy jumpers and T-shirts, my docs and plaid shirts (hey, it was the 90’s!). I hated my “fat” body, which, when actually looking back at photos from then, was not that fat.

I ballooned to around 80kg in my first year at Uni (and I am not tall at 1.64m). It was the heaviest I have ever been. I decided to go on a controlled diet when I could not fit into a size 42 (UK 14) and lost over 20kg.

This changed my body image immensely – I was thin for the first time in my life! I could now wear skirts and tight tops, and I loved it! I was really into the colours purple and lilac – on hindsight not the best colours for me. I bough lots of new clothes, skin tight tops, skirts, I even wore a bikini!

I moved to the UK for my PhD in my mid twenties. Living with boys and eating with boys led me to slowly put weight back on (around 10kg) but for a few years it did not click in my mind that I was no longer as thin in my early twenties. It kind of came as a shock when I realised I had gone up a size or two (depending on which part of my body I was dying to clothe).

I was quite heavy (around 75kg) when I got married 5 years ago but was utterly happy. A few months later health issues meant I went down to 65kg in a short period of time. Illness apart, I realised that was a good body shape and weight for me. Keeping it like that however was not easy and I went back up to 70-72kg, which is brings me to today.

As I get older I am more at peace with my body. I know it is not likely I will be 60kg again but I am trying to get into shape for my health, rather than for fashion. My taste in clothes now leans towards the utilitarian/minimalist/androgynous (straight lines, shirts, shift dresses) but I try not to let my “plump” shape stop me dressing as I like. I wear dresses more than I ever did. I OWN some shorts, albeit nicely tailored ones. I discovered that I primary colours (navy, red, mustard yellow) are flattering on my shape, and I colour block a lot. I LOVE stripes and wear them all the time.

(Sorry about the long comment! I am loving this series and find that it is exactly what I need to help me understand my relationship with my wardrobe, my sewing and ow to try and make it all work).


This is probably the biggest factor affecting my choices in clothing.
I believe I have a healthy attitude towards my body image. For a start, I don’t think of my body as separate from my Self. It’s not dissociated from me. My body is as much part of my view of myself as my thoughts or my feelings are. I am a dancer, and that has meant over the years that I’ve grown to love what my body can do, and appreciate the beauty it can create. I like that.
OK my body is big, but I don’t see that as making me less attractive, or less stylish, or less sexy than someone who is smaller and slimmer than me. It’s a bit of a pain, though, because The World doesn’t revolve around the needs or wishes of people of my size, and that makes buying clothes an absolute misery. Honestly, I hate going clothes shopping, because it’s soul-destroying when you find something that you think you would look good in, and the largest size they do is a 14. And they think that’s a large! So often I’ve ended up buying clothes simply because they are the only thing that fits me. And that’s not a good enough reason to buy any garment. And it ends up languishing in the wardrobe, rarely worn, simply because I don’t enjoy wearing it, it doesn’t make me feel good about myself, and it reminds me too much of the awful shopping experience. Or I do wear it, but I don’t love it, and I still have all those associations, and I don’t feel good about how I look. So I don’t actually have very many RTW clothes that I love
The experience of sewing and wearing my own clothes these last few months has been really beneficial, because all of a sudden I have clothes that do fit me, and that I do love, and I have only positive memories/associations. People compliment me on what I’m wearing, and that’s *so* affirming!


History: I’m not really sure if it fully fits into this category but my choice of clothing is based on a different set of qualities. It is based on my health. I have a disease that makes my abdomen swell around 4″ when I have an attack as well as tissue swelling in all other parts of my body. So I am now ‘designing’ or should I say learning how to modify patterns in order to sew clothes to make my life more comfortable but at the same time stylish. As I am only 42 I don’t want to dress old so this is often a battle.


Culture/history; growing up as a 3rd child in a family of 5 girls, and having always been the smallest, I got hand-me-downs throughout all my childhood until about my 16th birthday – when I left home for college and decide to do my own thing… So having growing up with a totally dysfunctional wardrobe it took me such a long time to be able to know who I am and what I really like to wear (I would say the following 30 years ;-)! In fact I guess because of this culture/history I went overboard with the matchy-matchy thing. I wouldn’t tolerate to wear outfits/accessories that wouldn’t match for a long time. 2 years ago, at 50 I came back to my love of sewing clothes, I’ve cleaned up my wardrobe (slowly 1 or 2 items every day), stop coloring my hair (to find out I have the most beautiful white hair!), so I am rebuilding a wardrobe that I like – really like, 1 piece of clothing at a time. I’ve been a dress/skirt person all my life, I’m happy with these clothes, so now these are what are and will be in my wardrobe. I really don’t care anymore in following the “t-shirt-blazer-jeans-booties” outfits that one can see everywhere. I’ll be the nice lady in a dress and just thinking as such makes my heart sings.


Late to the party, didn’t know this was happening but excited about it. Getting my wardrobe under control is my big project for this year. I just finished a deep clean in my closet so I can actually see all of my clothing, and even I find it slightly depressing. I won’t be able to really do much about it until summer, but there is time to plan now.

I think this all lumps into history:

Everything I’ve put on my body has been a means of hiding it. I was obsessed with turtle necks when I was eleven because I’d gotten lines on my neck and I couldn’t stand them (still can’t, but they’re not going anywhere). As a teenager, after it was made clear that my skinny beanpole body wasn’t acceptable (kids are unkind and adults were even worse), I made a profession out of hiding it under big t-shirts and big sweaters and jeans, which worked out since my mother had always bought my clothing several sizes too big. I avoided anything that fit tightly because the one curve I had was the little pooch of a belly in front, and that of course was bad too.

In college/graduate school I finally got other curves, but I am very short waisted and that combination is just hard to deal with, so I kept with the same pattern of jeans and a t-shirt. Also in graduate school, being called on was a very bad thing, so I stopped wearing any bright colors that might draw attention. When I was in my first job experience and the only female, I started growing my hair long and tucking it into ponytails, braids and buns instead of wearing it down and curly. Etc, etc, etc.

The other aspect is that a lot of my clothing choices are a reaction to the choices my female role models (mom and aunt) made. They had different ways of going about it, but they’re both very showy and (to me) that’s another kind of giant facade. You noticed their clothes or jewelry before you noticed them. Like oh, there’s an outfit or a some jewelry that I guess has a head attached. I’m invisible enough, thanks.

Summary: my style has been defined almost entirely in the negative, by what I don’t want. I have no idea what I DO want. Other than to live in an era when all I would really have to pick out is fabric, trim and accessories because Fashion had already decided everything else. I would be good at that. Now I look at all of these different shapes and styles and layers and masses of accessories that have no obvious rules to them, and expectations that I will “mix and match” and somehow be able to come up with a month’s or more worth of professional outfits without repeating myself, and I just want to run screaming… I can’t be the only one who feels like this can I?

Kate McIvor

Philosophy and Culture: If I were to sum up my spiritual beliefs in one word, it would be Tzedakah — the Hebrew word for both charity and justice. I believe that giving what we can to others leads to justice in the world. My belief is Tzedakah, my upbringing in casual California, and my adult life in even-more-casual Montana shape my desire to dress well but not spend extravagantly on what I wear. Sewing clothes that fit with fine natural fibers fits with both my spiritual and cultural beliefs. Thank you, Sarai, for guiding us all through this introspective journey! I am learning new things about myself!

Stacey Stitch

This has been a really great exercise for me, thanks so much for doing this, it’s really given me the kick up the arse I needed and has helped me evaluate my wardrobe.


I was brought up in the north east for the first few years of my life by my grandparents. They didn’t have a lot of money and my Nana often made home sewn/knitted clothes for us. She taught me to knit and embroider and passed her old 50s Singer on to me a few years back when I decided to start making my own clothes. We never went without but we never lived in luxury, they did the best they would afford and I never felt I missed out on anything.
I suppose what I learnt from my Grandparents still shows true today and that’s the satisfaction of making something yourself. I remember when Nana let me pick out material for a dress for the school disco when I was little and picking the trimmings, it was a little something special and something that I knew no one else but I would have. I think that’s something that has stuck with me, that you can make something individual and have the freedom to choose what you like and not what others decide looks good or fashionable.

Full post:


This has been really interesting to think about, and to read other peoples’ perceptions about–some of the other comments made me realize things about myself that I wouldn’t have though of otherwise.

I think activities is the category that, right now, really plays the big part in my style choices, or at least in the choices I make about what to actually wear every day. While things like, say, my history and body image do matter to me and affect my choices somewhat, ultimately I have to go to work, and I have to wear clothes that will allow me to get there and perform my job properly, so that’s how I choose what I’m wearing.

I commute by bike and have a pretty physical job that requires me to have full range of movement in my clothes. So no pencil skirts, nothing too delicate… But at the same time, I don’t have a uniform or dress code (I’m not working in a warehouse; I work with the public) so I’d like to take advantage of that as much as I can and not wear the same things over and over. What I’m working on is finding a place where the types of things that I want to wear intersect with the types of clothes my activities allow me to wear–finding, and making, clothes that are “me” and that I can also work in.


I am excited about having more of a plan for what I sew- I tend to be very random. I only discovered sewing blogs this past year. I love seeing all the beautiful dresses and bought 3 dress patterns which I haven’t made because I don’t wear dresses. I wear shorts, skirts or pants and usually knit tops. So, my goals are to make separates that go together and learn to sew knits.
Comfort is very important to me, no matter how pretty clothing is if its stiff or binding in anyway I won’t wear it.


My religion (Christianity) is very important to me. However, I put a lot of stress in my own theology on celebrating the world, valuing this life, and rejoicing in our shared humanity; I don’t really agree with Christians who devalue the present life or believe that humanity is something to be ashamed of or to escape. This comes out in my style in that I love color, pattern, texture, and beauty; I seek to celebrate who I am as a human and a woman; and I value the joy I find in making and wearing clothes. At the same time, it’s important to me to avoid excess and to pay attention to the ethical implications of what I wear. This has led to my giving up buying new off-the-rack clothes wherever possible; I sew, knit, and shop at thrift stores. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s something I can do.


My answer is in de blog !!!
I love that!!!

Lynn Mally

I know I’m a lot older than your average reader–age 63. But in some ways wardrobe planning gets harder as you age. At least you can solve one problem–fit–by sewing! I think that the two factors that most influence my clothing choice sright now are my occupation–a retired history professor turned fashion history blogger–and my location–Southern California. Most of the clothes I made for my old job seem to formal to me now. However, I don’t want to turn into someone who wears yoga pants all the time, a common option for older women where I live. So I am looking for clothes that combine comfort and a casual style with a little bit of elegance.


I’m in your age bracket too. Maturity releases idiotic behavioral and body image constraints. My own history, philosophy, activities and geography have matured. A hippie ethos at University in the 1970s in very counter-culture Northern California, getting a M.A. in theater (emphasizing costuming) and then a career as an attorney (I know. I know. But theater and law are more similar than you’d think) developed to my present style; relaxed but appropriate for my present life. Now my wildly curly hair is just allowed to be wildly curly (No more wasted blow-drying time ever again.) Southern California means nothing too warm for days but layers for chilly nights, plus a certain formality as an attorney and corporate officer with court appearances and professional meetings. Best of all, at least in L.A., well-fitted black trousers or jeans, low heeled shoes & long-sleeved tops and blazers are suitable office wear year-round.


Hello ladies, I am a bit late to the party having very recently discovered this wonderful blog. I will try to jump in and follow along with the progress. Lynn and Laurel, I am also older than the typical follower, 62, and just coming to terms with all the nonsense that dictated my dress “rules” for so long. Lower middle class, mother was not concerned with fashion at for her daughters (although she always looked so neat and tidy in her economy priced clothes). Marriage and kids (5). Husband who couldn’t care less what I wore or how I felt. Weight gain. More weight gain. Self-esteem? None! So, now remarried to wonderful man who actually wants me to look nice and feel good about myself. Recently lost 40 lbs, have about 20 to go. My arms and midsection are my nemesis. Determined to start sewing again, as I am not excited about too much RTW clothing – trying on is a painful endeavor. Love prints and color and nice shapes and blazers but spend most of my time in (too big) jeans, t-shirts and sweaters and big bundled-up coats (it’s cold here in NY) all either black or blue or gray, with some red tops thrown into the mix. There was a time, pre-marriage when I thought I was pretty hot stuff in my white palazzo pants with hot pink body-suit top! Would love to have that feeling again! haha. Letting my hair go gray, too, so this is a time of big change for me. Think this fashion foray will be a great thing!



Until this moment I wasn’t conscious of how history has affected my style!

When I was in elementary school in the late 60s early 70s, I lived near Yale University, which went coed in 1969. It was at the age of the women’s movement. So I grew up seeing all the pretty young women not wearing make-up, and wearing men’s tshirts and jeans or sweats, and never ever heels and hose. Somehow style got linked to feminism in my mind. I lived in tshirts and jeans until I got out of college. It helped that I was quite thin back then.

While men’s clothes look great on young, thin bodies, as I have aged (and gotten much much wider), I’ve had to learn to adjust my style. I don’t want to be mistaken for a man. So there is a balancing act in me to find clothes that flatter without costing me freedom of movement or giving me the sense of betraying that early training on empowering dress.

Add in that I sweat like a bandit in anything but natural fibers, and am fat, and it is wonder I ever get out the door!


When I was a younger I was in cadets and spent many months trudging through the bush in northern Alberta wearing combat pants and boots and ever since that is what I feel most comfortable in. Even before I joined cadets I had an affinity for this sort of military inspired look. But if you were to look at the photos of my life you would see such a mixed bag of style you would be gob smacked, I went from being dressed in hand made burda clothes from my mom, to demanding and then wearing sequin jackets, red leather cowboy boots and plaid skirts, to being a hardcore goth, then to basically wearing a pulp fiction inspired suit and to finally looking just a little grunge (reluctantly hipster according to my sister) When I was in art school I finalized what I like to wear but then my jobs changed and like Becky said I feel like I have twin personalities for clothing because of my job and then my other life.
I work in a law office and have to present myself in a corporate style manner. When I am at work I like to wear tailored dresses, suit jackets and slim pants with a classic style shirt and usually a sweater of some sort (my office is extremely cold year round). I sew almost all of my work clothes because I feel like I am competing with the other females that I work with/against who have larger shopping budgets than me and can afford designer duds at Holt Renfrew. When I shop for fabric I generally buy darker more expensive staples. I try to not buy any patterned fabric and try to make it so my pieces can be changed up easily with jewelry/accessories. My body is s short hourglass so I try to make sure that all my clothes are tailored with that in mind, especially emphasizing my waist and keeping my upper lady bits under wraps. I would say it’s sort of classic modern.
Prior to doing the law thing I was a film editor and worked in a highly artistic environment and could wear what I wanted so that where most of my personal style develop. When I am not in the corporate environment I usually wear dark jeans/pants, simple shirts, oversized jackets, chunky knit sweaters/hats/scarves, my rayban sunglasses, moto boots in the winter and toms in the summer, and big shiny jewelry. But I also like to include something just a little bad ass with each outfit(e.g. star patterned bleached jean shirt, leather leggings ) My sister would say that I am a hipster but I find that too broad, I would say that I am more modern grunge/rock star. When I sew for home I am ultimately looking for comfort but I want to look stylish too. I want people to say when I walk past oh that chick is bad ass so I sew to look like that. I like to buy leather, luxurious bamboo knits, denim, and warm coating fabrics. When I saw the Albion jacket I knew that was me, I am totally making it, I just have to work up the motivation to tape all of the pieces together.


History: The 1980’s were my flourish. New wave was hip, I wore bright colors, big plaid blazers with stretch pants, had short spazzed out curly hair and lots of eye makeup. One thing I remember about that period was baggy sweatshirts and tight pants. This seemed to work well for me because I matured overnight into a DD (terrifying for a young teenager) and came to the conclusion that cute teenager-ware wasnt made for my size. Today I still prefer to wear looser fitting tops and cardigans.

Life shifted for me in the 1990’s when I gravitated toward outdoorsy clothing. Back then there were only 1 or 2 options for womens technical clothing and I typically had to modify both options to fit my body. The garment most often modified were my bras. Fortunately these days this is no longer a problem. Wore lots of t-shirts and jeans, but still covered my chest with a vest or light jacket! Guess my modesty was still around.

Served in the military for 7 years and had nothing but a uniform to wear. I always made sure to wear pink or girlie undergarments to remember I was a woman. I wore a flight suit so, I pretty much wore pajamas to work every day and realized how comfort was really important, and NO WAISTBAND!

And now…..Im a 40 something. No kids, but 3 dogs, 12 chickens, garden, husband, job and live in in Colorado. I spend a great deal of time cycling, skiing et al. and find that I now gravitate toward garments that I can easily change into after a big bike ride or ski. This means a skirt or dress that is not fitted and generally cotton and/or jersey.

Long story long, I still love bright colors, but prefer elegant comfortable clothing that fits.


Body: I have a curvy figure with a small waist. Silhouettes that highlight that feature, make me feel strong and confident. Silhouettes that skim the waist make me feel frumpy and negatively influence my experience. I prefer figure hugging clothes, not because I am perfect, but because I am feminine and I am worthy, no matter my size. I choose well fitting clothes for every application, nights out and nights in, as an effort to always feel strong and beautiful.

I rarely find RTW that fits my figure and am grateful for the power that sewing my own clothes has given me. Knits are my clothing of choice, they allow me to move and be strong and they flow with me and show me to my best advantage. I can hike a mountain, dance the night away and curl up on the sofa in the same outfit. Feeling strong and beautiful all the while.

My struggle with clothing is not in buying clothes that I won’t wear or that don’t fit, but in buying fabric that does not suit me or my preferred clothing. It’s something I’m working on, trying to be mindful in the fabrics and patterns I buy and not get mesmerized by the beautiful renditions I see on blogs and pinterest. Staying true to myself and my style is a constant correction.


Body: Like many others who have answered this, I too have a large bust and a curvy figure, plus I’m short. Buying pants/jeans is always a nightmare for me because what fits in the hips is at least 2 sizes too big in the waist. And unless it’s meant to be form-fitting, anything which fits in the bust is always far too roomy in the shoulders, too long in the arms and baggy elsewhere.

My problem is having to settle for something that is less than perfect in terms of fit, since I don’t have the time to drive all over creation looking for something that fits. Additionally, I don’t have the time to spend on really fitting myself properly, since often it takes multiple muslins to get a pattern right. The Jasmine blouse is one of these things. I have the perfect fabric to make it and I really want it to work, but I’ve made 3 muslins and have yet to get the fit right. I think part of this comes from cutting the wrong size and tending towards too large rather than too big. It’s so difficult to get a good fit in the bust when my full bust puts me into a size 20 or larger but my shoulder measurement is like a 12 or 14. The resulting enormous dart is so problematic.

Then there’s the activities aspect: I’d love to wear more skirts and dresses, to look more put-together than I usually do. But the reality is that I have 4 kids and nobody cares if I look good or not, plus I hate having a cute outfit on and having my 4 year-old son inadvertently wipe his snotty nose on me when he hugs me, or look lovely and then have the baby spit up all down my back. I have to think about what I’m doing with my kids, and ultimately that means I end up in separates rather than a dress (I’m nursing the baby and I don’t plan to make any dresses with nursing access, since he’s the last one). And usually separates means a top and some jeans. I try to dress my look up with jewelry and/or scarves; right now I’m stuck with earring that have an easy release, since baby has taken an interest in them and likes to pull on them! Scarves are my friend for hiding the spit up, but I’ve always worn them. They’re like my signature item.

Laura Lee

For the first time I have realized why my patterns of purchasing and confusion have been manifested. I would definitely say “history” and without sounding sad (there are many with this same story), we did not have much growing up and my mom tried to do her best. She bought “matching tag” clothing…I think from KMart, you know if the shirt and pants have the same animal face, they ‘go together’. I was treated rather coldly by the click groups in grade school and finally mustered the courage to ask someone why.
Her response was very matter of fact, “your clothes are gross”. I forgot about it, aka, buried it and then years later wondered why I would go to high end department stores and gorge on name brand clothing that I could only charge, and had difficulty paying off. Years later, thankfully I no longer binge purchase but have realized over the past two years of sewing that for the FIRST time, I am choosing what appeals to me. I still have to work hard not to buy patterns and material that “everyone else says is the best”, but I try to make better, slower cycle choices.
Thank you for this discussion!


I have never really been a girlie girl; never spent a lot of time in the bathroom getting fixed up and hardly ever wore dresses or skirts. I was most comfortable in baggy, holey jeans and comfy shirts. In terms of class, my selections were most often found at the local thrift stores. My fabric selection wasn’t picky. I would be drawn to bright colors with a retro style, usually made of polyester. This has been by personal history of dress until just a few years ago when I began wearing dresses, skirts and blouses. That change occurred when my life changed spiritually. Since then, my style has become much more feminine in style and soft in color. Although, I do still like bright bold colors every now and then. I even find myself wearing pink and purple nowadays!!! That was totally out of the question just a few years ago. My fabric selection has changed in the past couple of years, as well, to only 100% linen or 100% cotton fabrics. This is mainly due to my religious beliefs, as well as the climate that I live in – tropical, humid and hot.


Hmm. History, I think. The role of The Pretty One was assigned to someone else from my childhood; for me, frumpiness was a duty. Not that that was a stated expectation, but I certainly complied with it anyway. If I had tried to be feminine, to intrude on that space exclusively owned by someone else, I think that things would have been quite difficult. So I’ve never really paid attention to my clothes. Or hair. Or face. Or any aspect of my appearance.

Only now, as I approach fifty, am I finally comfortable trying to look good, and comfortable even putting thought into a personal style. And I’m finding it a lot of fun.


I love this article and am looking forward to the next installment of the series.

When I did the excercise I found out that my clothing choices are very much influenced by location. That’s really quite surprising for me. I live in a European city and feel like I have to dress accordingly. I often don’t wear/buy pieces because they seem inappropriate for where I live. Which is silly really, but there it is.

So now I would like to explore how I would dress if location wasn’t a factor. Would I dress differently if I lived at the seaside, or British country side, or New York, or St. Tropez? And would I be happier with my wardrobe then?


i blogged mine here:

i found this much more useful than i expected – looking forward to week 2!

Melissa O.

My body is a serious pain to fit IMHO. Lol. I’m short & chubby, I absolutely cannot stand to wear anything that shows the “back boobies” (you know what I’m talking about), I’m short-waisted, my legs are not very shapely, I have very large boobs (the bain of my existence honestly), & shoulders that are rounded just enough to require an adjustment to everything I own. Blah! When I’m lucky enough to find clothes or a pattern that works for me I do look cute in that garment & so I wear the heck out of it. Unfortunately, these garments are few & far between & my knowledge of alteration tactics is still pretty limited. However, this site is helping me overcome that obstacle very well. ;)

I feel most cozy in a pair of well-fitted jeans or flat-front dress pants and a nice sweater (preferably boat-neck or v-neck because I’m so top heavy). Honestly, I would feel perfectly at home in an LL Bean catalog if I could get any of it to actually fit me. I like to call my style “casual country club” or “preppy outdoorsy” for lack of a better way to describe it. I wear a cami under everything because I’ve found it helps to smooth things out around the back boobies & they don’t show as much. I don’t often wear skirts or dresses, but when I do I prefer a-line ones that stop at the base of the kneecap. Color doesn’t really matter to me much since I like all colors, but I tend to gravitate towards the cool colors & black.


I used to work in the West End/City of London borders when I was younger, so had to be smart, but I hated wearing suits. If I bought a suit, I would wear the items separately. I have always hated shirts/blouses. I never wore trousers as back then, you didn’t get the choice in lengths/fit that you do now and I struggled to find trousers (and even jeans) that fitted. These days I work from home and am a mum so have a very casual wardrobe. I mainly wear jeans and t-shirts, and I own very few skirts/dresses which is probably a throw back to my youth, now that I can find trousers to fit. I am a casual dresser but love to get dressed up when I go out.

I was quite pear shaped pre-children but these days I am more rectangle, with barely a waist, which I really hate. It makes me feel shapeless. I want to smarten my wardrobe, but am struggling with how to dress my body shape and to be a bit smarter without feeling too dressed up.

The Hollywood Sew

Great series. Body: Since I was a teenager I had an ample chest, defined waist and very large hips. Every item of clothing I chose to wear and my whole style was based on hiding my hips and accentuating my narrow waist. Now I have had a complete body shape change (due to hormonal medication change/breastfeeding/who knows what else) and have a very small bust, a less defined waist and “proportionate” sized hips but have no idea what styles to wear. I have the freedom now to wear contemporary styles I felt I couldn’t before but I don’t know where to start in reprogramming myself and I lament not suiting the feminine vintage silhouettes with my now tubular body. I love retro styles so maybe I should just continue sewing them even though it doesn’t particularly suit me anymore!


Philosophy: I value simplicity, curiosity, and honesty. I believe in feeling your feelings, whatever they may be, as a process that keeps our bodies and minds healthy. While I care about my style, I don’t want to put all my time and energy into cultivating and maintaining it. I suppose I mistrust an overly curated surface and care more about what’s under the surface, about living well.

Claire aka Soupdragon

Oh, this was interesting but I do feel boring. I have always been fairly curvy, and very aware of my hips being two sizes bigger than my top half. Tend towards wide legged trousers and fitted tops. Hand knit fitted cardigans. I like to think that they are stylish hand knits, but do worry sometimes that I just look a right fuddy duddy.
The worst thing – I simply have to have comfortable shoes and they tend to look dull and boring. It makes me think twice about dresses/skirts. So do tights really, I always seem to twist one leg and get all uncomfortable.
I have had five children, am nearly 60 and still definitely a pear shape! I tend to look at really lovely simple clothes but don’t always dress that way. I love classics and have made Liberty print things, but then worry that I just look ‘old lady’ ish. (Why not, I suppose I am getting there – my generation seems the first that is not allowed to grow old.)
I did let my hair go silver a couple of years back. Completely liberating, and have had far more compliments than when I coloured it.
So I guess my uniform is wide leg trousers, shirt or scoop/boat neck t-shirt, handknit or cashmere crew neck. Jewellery – smallish, modern-ish, scarves (but are they getting passe). Make up, but not ultra bold, slightly spiky short silver hair.

Jayne Coney

History: I grew up learning how to sew, because we had little disposable income. I was also used to wearing lovely hand-me-downs from cousins who lived out of state & I often upcycled them to make them more me, style wise & size, because I was tiny, before that was even a term.
My grandmother was a knitter & a milliner & my great grandmother a private dressmaker & seamstress in the theatre & even though they died when I was very young I think they had a huge influence on who I became, in my need to create & my style identity.
I was always taught to dress appropriately for the situation.
A neat uniform with blazer, hat, tights & hair tied up for school.
Nice dress or skirt & blouse for church or outings. Jeans & shorts & t shirts for weekends & playing. Leotard, chiffon skirt, tight bun, clean tights for ballet.

Emma Jones

History: I always loved dresses as a child, and still do to this day. I think I was trying to emulate the styles that my Mum wore, and I loved the glamorous dresses that she wore when my parents went out for the evening. Even as a teenager, I would try on her dresses secretly and try to step in her shoes. For me, it is all about the dress.


Activity- drives my wardrobe. I work as a sign language interpreter- in a range of situations.. as an interpreter, I have to wear dark colored tops- without patterns, distracting jewelry, scarfs, etc.. so the people I interpret for can “read” my signs- without eye strain. So my style tends to be very minimal- solid dark top with pattern skirt or light grey, kaki bottoms. My husband would love to see me wear more patterns- since I don’t work full time- but if I buy something new, and cute- I’m gonna wanna wear it to work! lol it is a cruel cycle. lol


I have always been drawn to what is flattering rather than what is fashionable and my love of graphic prints led me to the 1950s style and making clothes which show off rather than hide my hourglass figure. Pencil skirts and bateau neck tops for work and full skirts and bold prints for going out!

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