Wardrobe Architect – proportions and silhouettes

wardrobe architectMy, I’m so behind with posting on this topic, and for no other reason than, once again, I’ve found the subject matter so very challenging.

Anyone whose followed my blog for a while will know that there have been some spectacular hits and misses when it comes to flattering shapes and silhouettes in the clothing that I’ve sewn for myself.

The biggest hit so far can only be my Giverny Liberty print dress:

giverny liberty print

This “ensemble” was an epic fail and soon relegated to the charity shop:

purple knitsThis issue of fit, proportion, shape and silhouette is one of the biggest challenges I personally face as a seamstress.

Yes, I have a long, long way to go with my skill-set, but it doesn’t matter how well you can sew if the clothes you are producing don’t flatter you and your figure.

Taking aside the colours of these outfits, which is, of course, a whole new post in itself, the shapes and silhouettes (s&s) are such a contrast that I feel they really illustrate why I’ve struggled so long and hard to formulate this post, and to narrow down the s&s that really work for me, and that I want to sew going forwards.

I’d downloaded the worksheet that Sarai created for this, but still I struggled.

I needed to do this visually and spent quite a bit of time wishing I had the graphics skills to whizz up some fancy schmancy illustrations.  But I don’t.

And then I ventured across to Polyvore.  Oh my word.  It’s nearly as dangerous as Pinterest. But mightily useful for helping me to visualise this process.

I did realise that I could quite easily be sucked in and spend another month faffing about with this.  So I gave myself some strict constraints:

  1. a tight time window
  2. to follow my instincts
  3. to choose s&s that flatter my figure
  4. to choose s&s that I actually wear
  5. to not be swayed by fabric choices
  6. they must fit my key words: Modest :: Comfortable :: Simple :: Polished :: Classic
  7. they must be lifestyle appropriate

Much easier!

And to make it even simpler I selected the black colourway for each section to make the silhouette even more pronounced.  We all know how hard it is to make the details stand out in a black photo, don’t we.  I only reverted back to colour if I couldn’t find the shape I was looking for in black.

So…that’s the why and the how…here’s the bit you’ve been waiting for.  Unless of course you’ve lost the will and pootled off to play on Polyvore yourself, or grab a glass of wine.

Or both! 😉

my trouser silhouettes

my dress silhouettes

my dress silhouettes

my tops silhouettes

my tops silhouettes

my skirts silhouettes

my skirts silhouettes

my coats silhouettes

my coats silhouettes

my shoes silhouettes

my shoes silhouettes

This is nothing short of enlightening and may revolutionise my sewing (and my shopping) going forwards.

At the risk of becoming all ‘corporate’ on you…the findings of this ‘enquiry’ are as follows:

  • Looking at this it becomes abundantly clear that if I perfect the fit on a small     number of garments I need never buy another sewing pattern again. I no doubt will…but I could quite easily use this small collection of perfectly fitted patterns to create outfit after outfit after outfit that look great and work for my lifestyle
  • I also became aware that I have two quite distinctive seasonal preferences. Cold weather it’s all about the trousers and tops.  Warm weather…I love a dress.  
  • Once I’ve cracked the suite of master patterns, it will be easy to tweak details and to make each garment an individual piece.
  • Roisin and Carolyn already know this…and to be fair I knew this too at the back of my head, I just didn’t listen to the voices!
  • Shopping for light weight knitwear will also be easier.  I need to concentrate on getting the basic shapes in place in fine yarn in a range of colours.
  • All of this applies to knitting too.  Hopefully I’ll make fewer knitterly mistakes that are so costly in terms of time and yarn.
  • I’ll save money on buying patterns that don’t fit this remit and so languish unloved and unused. 
  • I’ll save time fitting patterns that are never going to work.
  • All this saved time and money can then be spent on making things that do work for my lifestyle, that work together to give me more outfit options, that fit and flatter my figure as I work to get healthier, and that make me feel pretty smashing into the bargain.
  • I need to identify a suite of patterns that reflect these thoughts and which will become the backbone of my wardrobe.  Patterns that can be fitted to perfection and then made again and again…quickly, simply, perfectly.

This is something I can get excited about.

This is the solution to lack of sewing mojo!

What do you think?


19 Responses to Wardrobe Architect – proportions and silhouettes

  1. K-Line says:

    You know I’ve struggled to get with the sloper concept (and applying the relevant fit areas to new patterns). It seems so rote and reiterative. But it’s actually not! I have had more success using this method than when I was winging it pattern after each. I think your top bullet is spot on – you love a very specific silhouette (which is lovely and totally suited to you). If you just perfect 5 slopers – t shirt, woven top/dress princess seam, woven top/dress darted, pants woven, pants stretch – you’ll be able to make whatever you want. And efficiently. (Unless you sew at my pace in which case, less efficiently than some – but moreso than otherwise :-))

    • You are so right about this. Rather than becoming restrictive and prescriptive, having a sloper or a set of TNT patterns in a small range of styles that suit actually frees you up to be more creative because you’re not freaking about the fit issues every time. So you’re also more productive. And make things you’ll actually wear.
      I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get my head around this!

  2. Vicki Kate says:

    I love your Liberty dress. It’s just ‘you’. The polyvore silhouettes are brilliant and I think you’ve really homed in on your wardrobe shapes! Hard but definitely worth it.

    • The funny thing about the Liberty dress is that I nearly didn’t make it because although I knew the dress shape would work, I wasn’t sold on the fabric. Shows how much I know….it’s my most complemented garment ever (and that includes my wedding dress!). And I feel super in it!

  3. I am so convinced you are my younger, slimmer and more glamorous, (almost) identical twin….at least in terms of style!

    • You are so sweet! I’m working hard to get back down to that dress size at the moment. It’s a slog but I cannot wait to wear that dress again. Damn steroids and their ridiculous weight gain.

  4. Fiona M says:

    That Liberty print dress is gorgeous!

  5. Melizza says:

    I remember that Liberty dress. Absolutely stunning.

  6. I think your silhouettes are lovely and your plan is great! I’m trying to reuse patterns more once I have the fit down but keep getting distracted by lovely new indies (*cough* flora *cough* winifred). Look forward to seeing what patterns you choose!

  7. Andrea says:

    I think every seamstress struggles with identifying the S&S that work for her. I remember when I stated sewing all I wanted to make were billowy tops in flowy fabrics… and they all looked awful on me because they did not have any waist definition! So I decided I was not good at sewing clothes and switched to bags and quilts. And then I realized that if I picked the right shapes, all would be good. And it is. Until I forget and make some billowy dress that is all wrong for me. All this to say that I think by doing this S&S exercise you are miles ahead of the game. Now go make a thousand of that Giverny Liberty dress in both prints and solids because it’s gorgeous on you!

    • I do feel like this is finally starting to prick my sewing mojo…which has been conspicuous by it’s absence recently. This is such a revealing project and Sarai at Colette is, in my opinion, a flipping genius. I think that subconsciously we know this stuff, we just get distracted by the shiny patterns and lovely fabrics and forget to listen to the wise inner voice.
      And thank you for the kind comment. I’m planning to make lots of this style of dress because it really is my absolute favourite.

  8. tialys says:

    I mentioned in a post recently that women over a certain age (i.e. around 25) couldn’t/shouldn’t wear ditsy floral Liberty print dresses and here you are completely disproving my theory. Although, to be fair, I did say pink floral and you look as if you are not that far off 25 🙂
    I too need to re-think my sewing habits. I’ve sort of done it with knitting because it is far too expensive and time consuming to knit a garment you will never wear and I tend not to wear a lot of knitwear anyway which is why I suddenly find myself drawn to knitting socks. The sewing though, I still need to work on because I really don’t have the lifestyle where I need lots of dresses but I sooo want to make them. I do have daughters but one has gone off to Uni and I bought her a sewing machine for her birthday so she is making her own clothes now and my other daughter is very fussy about what she will and won’t wear. *Sigh* Maybe I could start making outfits for my dogs – but that way madness lies.

    • This comment made me smile because I’d completely lost a year off my age and realised yesterday that I’m even nearer to 50 than I thought. Eeep!
      I agree that it’s really hard to make yourself the stuff that fits your lifestyle when there’s lots of lovely, lovely patterns out there.
      I’m lucky in that I’m hitting that point where a dress is totally doable because I’m not crawling on the floor with little ones any more, but I also realised that what I really need to prioritise are some jeans and tops…good old fashioned basics…as well as a couple of more “professional” items as I’ve recently started a part time job at our local college.
      What I’m enjoying the most about this process is the feeling of light slowly dawning at the end of the tunnel. And that I don’t have to look like I’m auditioning for Vogue! Phew!

  9. I smell planning and mojo and other such good things returning. Kinda in time for spring and new floors and such too hey?

    I am impressed with your ability and tenacity to narrow things down to just a few well chosen silhouettes. I do hope that doesn’t mean you won’t try alternatives from time to time?? 🙂

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve actually got a few more WA posts in the pipeline…I’ve been very busy with the ideas. But for sure I’ll be trying new things. By Hand London and Sew La Di Da are calling my name for beautiful summer dresses!

  10. Pingback: Grainline Linden….relearning a sewing lesson. | Pendle Stitches

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