‘Ageless Style’ and sewing in UK Vogue

There’s a brilliant little article in this month’s UK Vogue, July 2013. It’s the ‘Ageless Style’ issue, and four sets of women and their grandmothers have been interviewed about fashion and clothes across the generations.


What caught my attention about this article was not just one, but TWO references to Burda magazine. See below:


The grandmothers are more interesting than their granddaughters, who mostly just reel off a list of labels. The older women have fascinating stories, from Natalyia, who was born in the USSR at the start of the 1940s and owned just two dresses, to Katholiki, who grew up in poverty on Rhodes and had to use petrol oil mixed with water to style her hair.

Most of the grandmothers are pretty sceptical about current clothing trends. All of them grew up either making their own clothes, or having clothes tailored for them, but this is not something any of the granddaughters have ever experienced.

My favourite bit is this quote on how sewing turns you from a ‘consumer of fashion’ into someone that makes fashion ‘work for you’. It’s kind of a radical statement to see in a copy of Vogue, which is all about the dream of the £5,000 dress.

vogue text1

The grandmothers are able to describe the clothes they’ve worn and made in their life in so much more detail than the granddaughters. You can visualise them perfectly.

Please excuse my giant hideous thumb

I love written descriptions of clothing, don’t you? I’ve always enjoyed reading about ‘sprigged muslin’ and ‘biscuit coloured pantaloons’ in Georgette Heyer novels, even though I have no idea what the hell they are.

The pictures are nice too. Check out the shoes and handbag on the left of this photo, belonging to a lady called Dora Yang. She was born in Shanghai in 1928 and always had tailored cheongsams made for her.


It seems unusual for Vogue to cover such a wide spectrum of clothing options. I guess the fact that it’s all in the past makes it okay. I can’t see them writing an article about sewing your own clothes in 2013.

Anyway, it’s worth picking up for a read, or flicking through in WH Smiths if you don’t want to spend £3.99 on a copy.

Sewing maths – Pink J Crew gathered skirt

Sewing maths - J Crew

Okay, I know I already wrote two posts about how you can’t save money sewing.

But here’s the thing – it all depends on your benchmarks. So my new strategy is to compare my handmade items against more ‘aspirational’ (ie. expensive) clothing brands.

Can I sew something cheaper than Primark? Hell no. Can I make it cheaper than J Crew? Definitely!

Homemade jeans – Burda 7863

‘Homemade jeans’ is the kind of cutting insult that would lead you to weep silently in the toilets at school – ‘Where’d you get your jeans? Did your mum make them?”.

Thankfully I am no longer 13 years old, so I’m not afraid to say that YES I made my own jeans, and yes, I am ridiculously proud. In fact I may have danced around the house in them singing a special ‘I made jeans’ song as soon as they were done.

Burda 7863 - stretch skinny jeans

I actually finished them a week ago, but blimey, it’s hard to take outfit photos at the moment, due to it being dark for 80% of the day. An added complication is that my in-house photographer is off sunning himself in New Zealand. Plus, the fabric is blue/black – not the easiest colour to capture.

I had to resort to desperate measures, so I actually got up early (before 7am! Don’t say I never do anything for you) to try and document these for the blog. It was not a success. The photo above was the best of a bad bunch.

Well it was either that or this deadpan mug-shot face:

Burda 7863 - stretch skinny jeans from Tissu Fabrics

Taking pictures of the back was even more challenging.

Burda 7863 - stretch skinny jeans back view

These jeans were designed to be a wearable muslin, and I have actually worn them twice in public without anyone pointing, laughing, or saying ‘what the hell is that on your legs?’.

They are far from perfect. There are fitting issues and sewing mistakes galore. But this post is just for gloating. I’ll do another one going over all the information in EXHAUSTIVE DETAIL (bet you can hardly wait).

(The pattern is Burda 7863, inspired by the many amazing versions from Handmade by Carolyn. The fabric is this stretch denim from Tissu Fabrics.)

Why do clothes cost what they do?

Everyone who knits, or sews, or makes jewellery, or maybe, I don’t know, bakes macaroons, at some point is told by a well-meaning friend ‘This is so good you could sell it!’.

Obviously this is meant to be a huge compliment. But if you’ve ever spent 6 months knitting a shawl out of overpriced German yarn that costs £30 a ball, only to be told by a friend that they’d pay ‘at LEAST 25 quid for that!’, the market has long ago moved on from the cost of totally hand-made labour.

There are always threads on Ravelry about this, advising people to pay themselves minimum wage, to price their work fairly, not to be undercut by people selling baby socks for £2 a pair. But the problem is that pricing is not actually a straightforward equation, like ‘time + materials + mark-up = cost’. It’s more of a dark art, shrouded in mystery and illusion and resulting in bog-standard looking handbags that cost £25,000 (this is not a typo).

For example, the designer Olympia Le Tan. She makes these beautiful clutches, embroidered to look like vintage book covers. They open up just like a book too, so you can store your Tom Ford lipstick and possibly a single tissue. Sadly there’s not enough room in there for an actual book.

They’re made in limited editions of 16, and they cost about a grand each. The press around them seems to imply that they’re all hand-stitched by Olympic herself, although information on her website is a bit thin on the ground.

Now these things probably do take hours to make (whoever actually makes them). But the reason they’re so popular is that Olympia has hit on the sweet spot between design, craft, high fashion and literary pretension. Hollywood starlets can carry one of these (which after all cost a lot less than a new Burberry bag) and look intellectual, quirky, and cutting-edge all at the same time. Her background in the fashion world and famous illustrator father obviously help a bit with the PR as well. That all adds up to £££££.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I find the pricing of designer clothing utterly puzzling. At some point a human being has been involved in their construction (as Polka Dot Overload points out in this post), but that’s probably the least important aspect in how much they cost.

If you go to Selfridges and get close to some designer clothes in the flesh, you can see that they use nicer fabrics, and better construction methods, but they aren’t sprinkled with gold-dust or guaranteed to make you look stunning. They’re nicer than high-street clothes, but not 200 times nicer. I guess the idea is that you’re paying more for cutting edge design and fit, rather than quality.

Some labels are clearly taking the piss though. Or to put it more politely, establishing themselves as Veblen goods. I give you the £1,225 Lanvin top:

At least it’s lined.

One nice thing about home-sewing is that you can invest where it shows – in materials and equipment that make your clothes look better, rather than having to spend money on marketing, distribution, and staff Christmas nights out.

What do you reckon? Any insights into clothes pricing? With the price of cotton going up drastically, all fashion retailers are going to be affected, and this may be an issue that becomes more interesting to the general public.

(If you’re interested in this there’s an amusing old thread on  The FashionSpot debating the most overpriced designers.)

JW Anderson for Topshop: sewing inspiration

Have you heard of JW Anderson? He’s so hot right now darling. I only really know this because Topshop have done one of their design collaborations with him. WOW I sure am riding the cutting edge these days. Anyway I’m not sure exactly how to describe the look of the collection, except it’s sort of 90s meets boarding-school uniform meets wacky prints.

So it might not be TOP FASHION NEWS any more but I was on Oxford Street yesterday and had a quick look at the collection, and was shocked to find that some of it was actually quite nice, and very ripe for a home-sewing rip-off. Specifically these two items.

This quilted pencil skirt was surprisingly well-made. It’s got a bagged lining and the outer is silk.  The combination of the sleek shape and the padded fabric is really unexpected and great. Plus the print is lovely (if you’re a paisley fan, anyway- I know some people hate and despise it)

This skirt has made me very interested in sewing with pre-quilted fabric, the only problem being that you can’t find fabric like this for love or money (although to be honest I have only tried money so far).

And this skirt could be SO easy to reproduce if I could get my hands on the right stuff. I’ve been searching and searching and there’s nothing out there except for children’s prints and beige waterproof stuff. No chance of any awesome quilted spider fabric. Hmph. I know you could quilt your own but that seems a bit too laborious.

There’s also matching padded t-shirts which I really like. If you bought the whole outfit you could basically nap anywhere you wanted in perfect comfort, which is a big plus in my opinion.

Here’s the second awesome thing I saw. This ‘maid’s dress’ has a removable collar and cuffs.  It’s done very cleverly in real life, the white collar is fully finished and has several buttonholes so you can easily attach and detach it from the main collar.

Again, this would be highly copiable at home. It reminds me of the shirt I made with a double collar, which I have never actually never worn due to fit issues and the fact that, well, I basically don’t wear shirts. Ah well.

What do you think of designer collaborations in general? I guess the idea is that you’re getting Marni style for H&M prices, or whatever, but I can’t help seeing it the other way round, ie. you’re paying 150 quid for something from H&M. Which was probably made in the same factory and with the same quality of materials.

My favourite collaborations are print-based like the Uniqlo tie-ins with Orla Kiely and Laura Ashley. I think that’s why I covet those J W Anderson quilted skirts – the prints are so unique, and that’s something that’s hard to replicate at home. Fabric shopping is a hit and miss affair sometimes.

Finally, if you are a wacky print fan, you must check out this A-line tortoise print skirt which seems calculated to appeal to that coveted sewing blogger demographic.

Sewing blogs vs. DIY blogs – the showdown

I have an enduring fascination with categorising different groups of people, especially online. It must be the frustrated anthropologist in me.

Something I’ve been pondering for a while is the difference between sewing bloggers and DIY bloggers. You’d think there’d be a big overlap, but no! They’re totally separate tribes.  I was reminded of this by a recent post from Karen, and thought it would be fun to pit the two groups against each other, Top Trumps stylee:

In the red corner, we have:


Here we have dip-dye, neon, studding and denim cut-offs. If only there was some chevron-ing involved it would be the Holy Grail of DIY

Leading Lights: P.S. I Made This, Park & Cube, A Pair and a Spare, I Spy DIY, Outsapop, etc etc.

Who they are:  100% female. Mostly thin, beautiful, and young.

What they do: Easy DIY tutorials recreating specific pieces or trends from high-end fashion designers.

Defining characteristics: At least two of the following in every post: studding, neon, dip-dyeing, chevrons, embellished collars, and cut-off denim. Huge images and tiny text. Heavy use of the phrase ‘pop of colour’.

Strengths: Gorgeous photos. A playful, fun approach to DIY and customisation. Accessible to people without a sewing machine. A way to replicate high-fashion looks without spending thousands.

Weaknesses: Too much Instagram, not enough text. Occasionally silly fashion blog poses. Unlikely corporate tie-ins. Sometimes projects look like they would fall apart after 5 minutes wear.

And in the blue corner, there’s the:


Ahh, a lovely reassuring vintage circle skirt pattern

Leading Lights: Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, Male Pattern Boldness, too many more to mention (check my links list)

Who they are: 98% female. All ages, sizes, styles.

What they do: Sew things, take photos, put on blog. Repeat. Interspersed with occasional tutorials, sewing tips, and wardrobe planning posts.

Defining characteristics: A love of 40s/50s vintage. Circle skirts. A weakness for decorative buttons. Knitting often spotted. Have made at least one thing from Colette Patterns. Refer to other sewing bloggers by first name with no context.

Strengths: Interesting writing. A strong sense of community. Useful tips and tutorials. Real content (ie. not just ‘curated’ from somebody else’s Tumblr). Clothing which is wearable by those over the age of 25.

Weaknesses: Blog layouts not as professional as the DIY crew. Often small or badly-lit photos. Overuse of the word ‘make’ as a noun. Too many wacky fabric prints. Pattern crazes sweep through the community like wildfire, which can lead to distressing homogeneity.

So who wins? I think we’d have to call it a draw. Personally I read a lot more sewing blogs, and my favourites are those that take inspiration from fashion, like Erica BGrainline and DIY Couture. Maybe both sides could learn from each other – the DIY bloggers could get a bit more in-depth with their making skills, and the seamstresses could learn to love simple, fun projects (although I draw the line at studding everything in sight).

What do you think, gentle readers? Do you read DIY blogs, sewing blogs, or both? Are you interested in fashion or do you prefer to tread your own path? And do you share my love of categorising people into groups, or do you think its like, totally oppressive and unfair?

Dirndl skirts: a consideration

Extremely late-breaking fashion news! Dirndl skirts are hot right now. In fact they were the one thing to be seen in this spring, so I hope you were wearing yours.

Magazines seem to have defined the look as anything full and below the knee, as in this gallery from Elle, which confusingly doesn’t feature any proper dirndl skirts at all, instead highlighting two circle skirts and four pleated numbers. I do like this Reiss one though, which has an interesting asymmetrical pleat arrangement.

The classic dirndl skirt is properly two rectangles of fabric gathered into a waistband, much beloved by home dressmakers because it’s so easy to draft and sew (as in the two very popular tutorials from Gertie and Tilly). I find it hard to wear, even though I’ve seen it look great on other people. Something about all that bulk at the waistband. You might think this skirt is all 1950s glamour and cats-eye sunglasses, but turn your back for a second and the dirndl has a worrying tendency to channel Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. Which is a hard look to pull off without a mountain in the vicinity.

I haven’t seen that many people out and about wearing the dirndl, however much fashion magazines might hype it up. Midi length skirts are definitely still in, but mostly those those horribly cheap polyester chiffon pleated things which used to be strictly for the over 60s, but are now marked up 300% and sold in American Apparel.

I do like the look of a longer skirt, and want to sew some for this autumn (which appears to already have arrived in England). But I think I might opt for pleats rather than the classic dirndl. I loved the Sewaholic Crescent skirt pattern, which controls any potential bulky gathers with a nice smooth waistband, but unfortunately the pattern has mysteriously disappeared in the black hole of my sewing room.

In other delayed fashion update news, according to the Times style magazine  I found discarded on the bus, this beautiful but eye-wateringly expensive piece from Jonathan Saunders was the dress of the season. It’s called the Yvie. I very much approve of dresses having names, so big pat on the back for Jonathan.

It could have been yours for a mere £1,100, although it’s now sold out. Soz. It’s pretty hard to tell what the style lines are because the print obscures them, but it seems to have two waist darts, a pin-tucked yoke panel, and a gently pleated skirt which also features horizontal tucks. You can get a better look on the Harvey Nichols website.

It wouldn’t be difficult to recreate this dress at home for somewhat less than a grand, although the print is what really makes it work. It somehow manages to reference the 50s, 60s, and 70s all at once, while still looking distinctly modern.

I have less problems wearing gathered skirts on dresses than as stand-alone pieces, probably because the matching bodice helps to  smooth the whole line. Still, I do prefer patterns that include a midriff piece above the gathered skirt, like the McCalls 6503 I made earlier this year.
What do you reckon? Are you a dirndl devotee?

Apron wrap dress by Ermie

I found this dress via a great blog called Gems, and I’m now officially obsessed with it.

Apron dress by Ermie

It’s from a small US based fashion label called Ermie, and it’s called the ‘ERMIE/Myrtle Raku Apron Dress’.

Here’s why I love it so much (this is the dress in another awesome print called ‘Light of California’).

Check it out! This dress is pushing all my buttons. Not only does it have kimono sleeves and the perfect boatneck (two of my favourite things), the wrap part is an extension of the skirt. I’ve never seen this style before. Apparently it was inspired by the cut of a vintage dress in a local boutique.

I love garments like this that only use straight lines, with no zippers or buttons or closures. This dress reminds me of the traditional kimono shape, with the sleeves moved down to become a wrap skirt:

You do need really good fabric to show this style off. The Ermie prints are all stunning, you can check them out on their shop.

I love that you can tie the wrap at the front or the back, or even walk around holding it out like the model in the photo above, although that’s maybe not so practical when you need to make some tea or pay your bus fare. Expect to see a version on this blog soon (soon = within the next year or so).

Geometric 70s shirtdress: Simplicity 2246

We have a new record! Forget the Olympics, this is the fastest time ever between me posting about a potential sewing project, and actually making it. Normally there’s a time lag of at least 6 months. Here’s my shirt dress:

So, you might have noticed that Simplicity 2246 has an A-line gathered skirt, while this one is, well, a pencil.

I did actually sew the original pattern shape. I only just managed to squeeze it out of  two metres, which is why the back skirt panel has the little ‘A’s going right side up, instead of upside down. I don’t think anyone will notice though, do you? I find people pay a lot less attention to minor clothing details than you’d think (apart from fellow sewists, they’re a bit tricksy like that).

So anyway, I made the original A-line skirt version, put it on and looked in the mirror, and just HATED it. It was those mimsy little gathers at the waist. They looked so home-sewed, so apologetic, so little-girly. The geometric fabric just did not like them.

Normally what I’d do is stuff the piece away somewhere until I could face dealing with it. But because I’d already blogged about this I felt a weird obligation to finish the damn thing.

So my solution was to re-make the skirt entirely. This involved a lot of seam ripping (including all the overlocking, which was just as fun as you’d imagine). Then I took my trusty pencil skirt pattern and traced it on to the pieces, moving the darts a bit so they matched the bodice ones. Sewing it all back up didn’t take long, and then I overlocked the hell out of everything.

I figured the print was so blinding that it needed ultra boring detailing, so I just went for brown top-stitching and some very plain buttons.

This Lisette pattern is nice, but there’s a few annoying things about it. There’s way too much sleeve cap ease, which as we all know, is totally bogus. I really hate those tiny little gathers at the top that you have to do to make it fit (I’m being super harsh on gathers today, I know.). Also, it instructs you to cut out 4 placket pieces which just takes forever. There is no need for this! Cut the placket and the facing all in one, ladies!

Hmm, what else. Oh yes, I combined the bodice darts into one really massive deep waist dart, which came out a bit pointy but you can’t really tell in this fabric. I also added a little pocket with a button and cuffed the sleeves above the elbow.

So what do you reckon? I think this is one of those fabrics that you love at first sight, but become steadily disillusioned with over the course of sewing. I’m not sure if a plain sheath dress would have suited the print better. But I’m still pleased with myself for salvaging a potential disaster into something totally wearable.

New V and A Fashion Galleries

The V&A have been and done a great big old refurbishment of their fashion galleries.

The old galleries were pretty standard for a museum, divided into different areas with plasterboard walls. Now they’ve been transformed to reveal the bones of the space: a huge white hall with a beautiful dome, which is absolutely breathtaking when you walk in.

There’s a special exhibition space in the middle to replace the older one, which was always a bit too cramped and circular. To be honest, it doesn’t feel that much bigger but they’ve got a mezzanine level now to display more clothes (although that could just be a temporary thing for the ballgowns exhibition).

The big arches around the hall have huge photos projected on to them:

They’ve re-shuffled the permanent collection too. I only recognised a few things, like this black suit which I think is Charles Worth:

And this Christian Dior ‘Zemire’ dress which was painstakingly restored for the Golden Age of Haute Couture exhibition a few years ago:

I fell in love with this 1930s green Lanvin number.

I don’t remember if this floral Balenciaga dress was here before, but I would like to take it home please. There must be some insane structure going on underneath to make that shape.

And talking of structure, how about this humongous Victorian puff sleeve.

I liked this Victorian bodice as well, which is displayed with a matching length of fabric.

I could be wrong, but it seems like there’s a lot less on display than previously. I know the prevailing trend is towards enormous architectural spaces with just a few objects (like Tate Modern, which is probably one of the most overrated museums in London), but personally I prefer the ‘pile em high’ method of curation. On the other hand, the Textiles space at the V&A is along those lines, and it’s extremely old-fashioned and dingy and could do with a massive overhaul. And there’s no denying that the fashion galleries look a lot more impressive now.

I also had a quick look round the new Ballgowns exhibition. It’s okay. Not sure if it’s worth 8 quid to get in (I’m a member so it was free, hooray). There’s some beauties on the lower floor, but the upstairs showcases modern gowns, which are as strangely dull to look at in person as they are in those Oscar red carpet round-ups. It would be nice to have more background on the dresses.

Hopefully they’re just gearing up for the Hollywood Costume exhibition this autumn, which I can’t wait for.

The two types of shirt dresses

I’ve always thought shirt dresses are really cool. One-piece dressing and easier to wear than a full on Dress with a capital D. There’s so many variations as well. Check out this amazing Claire McCardell piece with an obi-style belt and a dramatic collar:

There’s a shirt dress sewalong going on right now at A Fashionable Stitch, but while I do like the pattern they’re using, I don’t want a zip in my dress. It feels like cheating! I want mine to button all the way down the front.

To get some inspiration, I’ve been doing extensive research (okay, browsing netaporter.com. The online equivalent of wandering round Liberty’s and pawing all the highly expensive dresses, but without any sales staff to give you the evil eye.)

Here’s what I’ve determined. Shirtdresses currently come in two categories, which with stunning originality I like to call ‘Loose’ and ‘Fitted’. The loose style are MUCH more prevalent at the moment. In fact the ‘no waist’ look seems to be big right now, which is a shame for those of us who resemble a potato in outfits with no waist definition.

The ‘Loose’ category often has a half placket. There’s a lot of interesting sleeve applications, with raglan and kimono styles. There is no waist seam, and normally a self-fabric belt. Sometimes they have a collar, but more often not. Prints are big.

The 2nd category is a lot rarer in RTW at the moment – the classic 50s looking ‘Fitted’ dress. It’s got a waist seam, a big flared skirt, often sleeveless with a notched collar. Lots of cute details like a thin belt, or novelty buttons, or a big old bow, or piping. There’s a lot less of these around, although Miu Miu have come up trumps this season (I love the coral one below, with star-shaped buttons).

Okay, there’s loads of pretty dresses out there to copy, but here’s the problem –  I have serious issues with decision making. I’ve narrowed my options down, and have two possible combos, but I need your help! What do you think of these?

First up, we’ve got Simplicity 2246 (the Lisette Traveler dress), and some gorgeous fabric I bought from Ditto in Brighton. It’s a really light crisp cotton, apparently ex Christian Dior stock. I love the geometric pattern and the mysterious letter A which appears all over (A for AWESOME)

But I’m not 100% sure about the match. I’d make the full-skirted dress, but I wish it just had one waist dart. And a notched collar. I don’t like the girly puffed sleeves either, would have to use the cuffed ones. Also, is this pattern just too boring to do the fabric justice? Help! Too many thoughts!

Okay, second combination:

This is the oil-on-water digital print I got from the lovely people at Our Patterned Hand (pardon the wrinkles – it’s just dried). The pattern is an unknown quantity: McCalls 6520.

Nobody in the world seems to have made this dress, possibly because the envelope styling is hideous (see below). The raglan sleeves could go either way – I love them, but they’re hard to fit. The shaping is loose, but crucially there’s a tie to pull it on at the waist. As a huge bonus they’ve included my favourite thing, a tiny stupid chest pocket. But what do you think? Is this pattern stylish or frumpy?

Matching leopard-print shoes and headband? Oh McCalls. At least you try.

Are you a shirt-dress lover too? Any patterns to recommend?

How to dress: putting together outfits

(Hi there. I actually wrote this post last September and then forgot about it, which is why all the links are really really old. But if you love reading out-of-date, lengthy rants about high-street fashion and celebrity dressing, it’s your lucky day! Enjoy!)

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about fashion ‘rules’ and putting together outfits, partly inspired by this post from one of my favourite blogs, Rip it to Shreds. It’s mostly about hideous trends but this is the bit that really caught my eye:

“…people insist on this revolutionary concept they themselves invented, mixing “high” with “low” and cut-offs with heels. It’s very fresh to do this, as opposed to the “too perfect, matching” look people always say they are against but no one really wears because it is out to match.”

Traditionally there are lots of different clothing ‘rules’ about what can and can’t wear, and you still see fashion magazines saying ‘Forget the rules and wear whatever you like! Why not wear designer shoes with high street jeans? Wow! Go Crazy!’ (I may have paraphrased a bit).

But has anyone actually obeyed this mythical fashion code of conduct since the 1950s? Unless you’re a member of the Royal Family*, it seems like having to dress appropriately for an occasion is a lost art.
* although most of them have lost it too. I refer you once more to this handy reference guide.

It does seem like a backlash is coming, with the most obvious sign being the return of ‘lady-like’ dressing. The first hint was longer skirts. One of the major reasons I started sewing was because for the past few years it’s been impossible to buy skirts and dresses that reach below mid-thigh. I know this makes me sound like someone’s maiden aunt, but I’m 5 ft 10. The average British woman is 5ft 4. That’s 6 extra inches of leg to deal with.

But that’s all changed over the last few years. The Whistles ‘Carrie’ skirt was a huge hit last year, despite looking like something your gran would wear to a nu-rave bingo party. Suddenly below knee-length skirts are everywhere. Similarly with Peter Pan collars, high-cut necklines, and long sleeves.

This (extremely old) New York Times article on the subject rather predictably talks about the ‘Kate Middleton effect’, but I thought this was the most interesting quote, from Jason Wu:

“A couple of years ago, the deliberately dissolute look of a model off duty was a strong inspiration, he said. “Now people are interested in looking ladylike.”

Well, duh! Here’s a thought: if an Eastern European 14 yr old with baby giraffe legs and Martian eyes looks good in a holey vest and ‘boyfriend’ jeans, it might not be down to the clothes.

But I’m not just thinking about bodycon dresses vs. knee-length pleated skirts. It’s more about really going for a look and nailing it. It can be scary to look too  ‘costume-y‘ (as Peter from Male Pattern Boldness put it) But wouldn’t it be great if more people started wearing a whole look head-to-toe, without feeling they have to ‘dress it down’, or ‘dress it up’?

Suzi QuatroNobody would describe Suzy Quatro’s style as ‘lady-like’, but she knew how to put a look together. What else can you wear with a zipped leather jumpsuit but knee-high python print boots and a ton of necklaces?

One thing people always say about Northern cities in Britain is that the women there aren’t afraid to glam up and go the whole hog – check out this article about Liverpool girls going out in their curlers. They don’t try and ‘dress down’ their outfits by putting horrible bike shorts underneath or wearing denim dungarees on top or something (I’m looking at you, Alexa Chung).

Alexa Chung in dungareesThere’s no excuse for this

Also, why not just stick on a pair of trainers if you’re dressing casually? I’m sick of seeing celebrities wearing cut off jeans with huge leather boots and clunky handbags.

Lindsay Lohan in shorts and bootsIf it’s hot enough to wear shorts, it’s too hot to wear knee-high boots. That’s just, like, physics or something.

Listen, if you’re just popping to Starbucks for your 18th sponsored frappucino of the day, put on some Pumas and wear a Kanken! It’ll look better AND you’ll be more comfortable!

Here’s another quote from that New York Times article, from Tommy Hilfiger:

“In a departure from his willfully incongruous pattern mix of last season, “we will be really very studied about how we’re putting our outfits together,” he said, to the point of offering matching shoes and bags — an apparent homage to Britain’s future queen”

Matching shoes and bags! Now that really is revolutionary.

I think it all comes down to is being comfortable in what you wear. Not necessarily comfortable in the literal sense: I don’t think we should all be walking around in pyjamas and sports bras all day, god forbid. But comfortable in the sense that everything goes together, and you look like your clothes were made for you and not someone else three sizes smaller or larger. This quote from Nancy Mitford just about sums it up for me:

I have often noticed that when women look at themselves in every reflection, and take furtive peeps into their hand looking-glasses, it is hardly ever, as is generally supposed, from vanity, but much more often from a feeling that all is not quite as it should be.
Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate

When you wear something that you love and that you feel great in, you can stop worrying about your appearance and turn your attention outwards (perhaps to tell other people how hideous THEIR outfits are…)

For example. I’m not a huge Daphne Guinness fan but I bet when she leaves the house, she always knows that she’s nailed it. I guarantee she doesn’t waste time fretting about whether her skirt goes with her beige cardigan (or more likely, whether her multi-coloured kimono matches her enormous pony heels).

Needless to say my wardrobe is hardly anything to write home about, but sewing has been making me consider this issue more and more.

What do you think?