Sewing for Everyday Wear or That’s Just Crazy Talk

I have been so busy this summer with many costuming events and reorganizing my poor neglected home (and taking a brief respite to go to beautiful Ely, MN) that when I looked out the window this morning I was rather surprised to notice that there are some leaves changing color out there.  It would seem that between the non-stop rain and 90+ degree temperatures that I actually haven’t spent much time outside and thus have pretty much missed summer.  Or what passes for summer in MN.

I have SLOWLY (like snail slowly) proceeded on my Eleonora, but otherwise have not felt the urge to sew much of anything at all.

And then I read this post that I found on Sally’s Blog, “Already Pretty.”  The Cheap Chick is a big fan of fashion blogs (and even has her own here) and introduced me to Already Pretty awhile back.  I have enjoyed reading the posts and have even learned a thing or two, and when I read the post on celebrities and their clothing I was a little taken aback.

As a sewer I had always known that clothing could be tailored.  I have modified a t-shirt or two and certainly hemmed my fair share of pants.  But it never occurred to me to tailor my ENTIRE wardrobe.  It was just something that seemed A)very time consuming and B)unfathomable for some reason to me.

I had experienced the same feelings of frustration and despair and ugliness that the writer describes in trying on clothing (as has every woman, I think) and decided that I needed to change that attitude.  With that article in mind, I went to the thrift store and actually left feeling good about myself, filled with accomplishment at actually buying something that would fit with some tweaking and a list of what I needed to do to make that happen.

It was a wonderfully refreshing feeling.

(Pointing at “The Bench” from the Betsy Tacy books on the fangirl pilgrimage that The Cheap Chick and I went on in June.  Note the ill-fitting shirt and pants.)

Watching my teen daughters navigate the world of clothing while shopping for back to school clothes was very eye-opening.  One of them has a tiny little figure that fits perfectly in almost every vintage dress out there, which makes her naturally feel like a million bucks.  The only real issue she has is that her shoulders are slightly more narrow, which leads to bunching of fabric in the back around the zipper area.  However, since she can’t see this, all she sees is the lovely front view and (again) feels fabulous.  She also knows that that bunching can be fixed.

Her sister has different issues.  With a more athletic build and being a bit bustier, she has a harder time finding clothing.  When you wear a Large at Forever 21, and a Medium at Target and a Small/Medium at Old Navy, how can you possibly know what will fit you when you find it?  She is not really ready for shopping with a measuring tape, and putting on outfit after outfit that is not really shaped for her body while her sister fits in everything is very exasperating.  Places like the Bettie Page store and Athleta and Title Nine are great for her as they have clothing that looks great on her lovely figure.  I have worked very hard this shopping season to make sure that she feels just as great about her shopping experience as her sister does.

This in turn makes me consider my own shopping issues again.  I wear a size 14/16 on top and an 18 on the bottom.  I have more than a 10 inch difference between my waist and hips.  Jeans are ridiculous to find that fit.  I love trouser jeans, but have come to the realization that I might be a bit too short for them.  And considering I can’t really wear heels, they might not be the best look for me.  I also came to the conclusion that while I love pants and jeans, they really are not always the best choice for my body shape. I do like comfortable tops, but don’t want to have things that are so tight around my midsection that I feel like everyone can tell I had an extra large lunch that day.  Most tops are not made to fit my bust AND my hips.

This is where that advice of Clinton Kelly comes into play – alterations, alterations, alterations.  However, sometimes I want something to fit right away.  Is that so wrong?  I found a link to this store, eShakti, which makes clothing to custom fit you.  Is it worth it to spend an extra $7.50 to get something to fit?  I personally think that is a Hell Ya.  I have ordered a dress from them and will see how it fits. Cross your fingers for me.

(And I have to interject for a moment here.  I have looked through many fashion/style blogs over the past year and I have been surprised at the amount of folks who look to be wearing the wrong size bra.  What you wear underneath your clothing is just as important as how that top fits you.  There is a reason why the unofficial Wench Posse initiation is a bra fitting.  Your friends should want you to look the best you can look.  And if you are that friend who has noticed this problem about your friend, well, speak up.  Offer to take your friend to get a bra fitting and help make “Second Base” look the best it can.  Having everything in its proper place can not only make clothing look and fit better, but can give a tremendous boost to a person’s self-confidence.  Thus endeth my soapbox.)

However, when you get right down to it, the quickest and most of the time cheapest way to get something to fit correctly is to make it yourself.  I have made ready-to-wear before and it has not been my favorite thing to make.  Mainly because I have a healthy dislike of the zipper, and because I have almost no experience at all in sewing knits.  Both of these things are usually required in ready-to-wear and thus my inexperience and frustration levels are both high.  I have taken knit classes at the American Sewing Expo (Go!  Learn!  Have fun!) but never had the time or inclination to do something about it, although I did finally break down and buy an invisible zipper foot which appears to eliminate much Zipper Stress.

I thought that making clothing would be easier, but my weight fluctuates year round, and lately has been going down a bit as I am making a concerted effort to lose weight.  Why then should I spend the time to make something that will not fit in a month or so?  Why not just keep shopping thrift stores even though it is hard to find something that fits my shape and is stylish to boot?

Why?  Because I deserve nice things, dammit.  It has taken me 39 years to come to the realization that my body is not going to change overnight and that I am entitled to nice things that I can wear, even if only for a short period of time.  I spend far more money and time making costumes that I wear only a couple of times a year.  Why shouldn’t I change that up and spend that time and money on things I will wear all the time?

While reading Already Pretty I found Patty’s blog, The Snug Bug.  She also lives in MN and (I believe) works at Sewtropolis, a fabulous fabric store in Minneapolis that my buddy DJRenee raves over.  She has beautiful things she has made to fit her body and she looks amazing in them.  I am a little bit in awe, actually.

And thus I have made a decision.  I am still going to work on my Eleonora and try to have it done in time for Costume Con 2012 (Bwa ha ha!  HOO that is ambitious!), but I am also going to try to make myself some regular clothing that will fit me well.  I can’t commit to a daily outfit, but I can commit to a weekly outfit, starting in September.

This is NOT going to become a fashion blog (mainly because I am not terribly fashionable by any stretch), but I would like to share some of my successes and mishaps with the crowd in hopes that I can help other people, or that other people will have ideas for me!  I will post pictures of Eleonora as she is in progress, but writing daily about the 4 square inches I managed to needle-punch each day is pretty boring, so I will try to post photos instead.

Here is to hoping that by the time I turn 40 on December 17th that I will have a better fitting wardrobe, a somewhat thinner frame and a better attitude about it all.  I appreciate the encouragement.

3 thoughts on “Sewing for Everyday Wear or That’s Just Crazy Talk

  1. The Cheap Chick says:

    FINALLY. You do deserve nice things that make you feel pretty. And one nice outfit that cost more is so much better than 10 outfits you merely tolerate.

    Also? Double true about the ill-fitting bras on style bloggers. Don’t their friends care? THEY SHOULD.

  2. Artemisia Moltabocca says:

    Your exact concerns have been on my mind for my own wardrobe. I was thinking about this very issue on my recent vacation. I want to look and feel good in my regular clothing as I do in my costumes, but having time to sew everything from scratch is nearly impossible for me. Thanks for the website, I think I’ll try them out too.

    You do deserve nice things. We all do. Yes, they are a little expensive. But you know what? I end up throwing away so many ill-fitting clothes…if I were to add the cost up I could have a few good fitting clothes that I will never throw away. So having expensive clothes that FIT and make us feel good ends up being an inexpensive investment in the long run!

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