I have clear memories of flicking through pattern books in my younger days, looking at some of the ‘art-teacher chic’ patterns and thinking ‘who would ever want to wear those’? A few years pass by, then a few more, and now I have the answer. I want to wear those!
Our styles do change and evolve over the years. Partly this is in response to body changes, partly it’s to do with what we see around us, and I think that very much it’s to do with our state of mind. The human race is so diverse – isn’t it a wonderful thing that there are many styles of clothes that we can choose from?
I turn fifty years old in a couple of months time. Turning fifty feels like a highly pivotal point for me. It’s given me focus. I’m pretty much half way through my life. How do I feel about my life? What it has been, what I hope it will become? How do I feel about myself, especially at this stage of my life? How do I feel about my looks and my style, and how I present myself?
I’ve always been interested in clothes and style. I remember poring through the pages of weekly and monthly magazines that made their way into the house as a child and teenager. I’ve read all those books about dressing to ‘flatter’ and have had my colours ‘done’ (twice, with different results each time). Sewing really gives me the freedom to experiment with style in a way that I don’t think I could do if I bought my clothes.
So, as I rapidly approach fifty, what do I think about style? Actually, nothing that I think about style is necessarily set in stone. When it comes to choosing my own clothes, the first thing that I think of is comfort. I have absolutely no interest in wearing clothes that pinch or dig in or restrict my movement (although I sometimes will wear heels in situations where I don’t have to walk much – I love the look of them). And I need to feel like myself in my clothes. I need to put them on and be Lara, not someone else’s idea of me, not what Trinny and Susannah would say is me. My clothes need to feel good to me both physically and psychologically. I like colour, I like variety, I like to mix up shapes and silhouettes. I am not interested in trying to look taller or slimmer or to pretend that I have a waist that I know I don’t actually have. That said, the prevailing culture that I have grown up in and live in assumes that I do want to do those things, and I acknowledge that I am most likely conditioned to aim for that to a certain degree. I suppose that I don’t dress to look larger – but if that’s what happens, too bad!
Some people find their style when they’re young, and stick to it. Many of us even have friends who haven’t changed their hairstyle much over the course of their lives! Others play with their style, changing it all the time. I like to think that mine evolves. I have changed as a person over the past almost fifty years – so it is logical to me that the way I present myself changes too. I imagine that this process will continue.
Oh my, that got a bit philosophical all of a sudden! I’d better get back to the clothes – after all, this is a sewing blog. The pattern is Vogue 9161, a Marcy Tilton top and skirt combination. From the website: Very loose-fitting, pullover top has neck band, raglan sleeves and stitched hem. Skirt (cut on crosswise grain) has elasticized waistband, right side pocket with casing and tie, tucks/pleats, yoke back, shaped hemline, bias hem facing, and invisible side zipper. Note: Top and skirt, no provisions provided for adjustments.
You really do need the line drawings to appreciate the details of these items.
I sewed the top in linen knit from Rathdowne fabrics, and the skirt in a checked cotton that came from the Darn Cheap Fabrics $2 table ages ago. The top was a terrific match for a linen knit. Loads of drape, little to no recovery needed (those linen knits are delightful to wear but they’re really not suited to lots of knit patterns). The only part that really needed to fit me was the shoulders and bust. As you can see there is loads of ease in this pattern! I chose to sew the Medium, which is size 12-14. A note on sizing – according to the pattern envelopes I measure around size 18 (larger for my waist). That would be a ridiculous amount of ease for my shoulders and chest and hips. I choose the size that I sew according to a few things – the pattern size measurements, the finished garment measurements (sometimes you have to actually measure these on the pattern pieces; they’re not always printed) and the style of the garment. I look to see what parts are close fitting, and ensure that they will fit my body. The rest will be accommodated by the ease.
There are gussets inserted into the side seams to give this top loads of swing. I chose to twin needle topstitch along the front angled shoulder seams to give them more strength, and also used the twin needle to secure the neckband and the hems. Double sided fusible tape really was my friend when it came to hemming. These linen knits can stretch out so terribly easily! The top was actually pretty straightforward to sew. If you are planning on making this, do note that it’s pretty short. This is to keep the proportions of the top and skirt in combination looking good, and I think that it works really well, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste. I’m also rather short-waisted – my height is in my legs more than my torso – so take that into account too. I also want to point out my gorgeous necklace – a hand-made gift from a highly talented friend. Thanks so much Kathryn!
The skirt took a while to sew. Lots of pattern pieces to be cut out single layer, with lots of tucks and folds and darts etc to be marked onto each piece. And you need to make those markings in order to get everything to work out as it should! I rather love the gathered pocket top. I sewed the skirt in size Medium, and included the invisible zip at the waist only to discover that I can pull it on over my comparatively small hips without having to undo the zip. Yay for elastic! It was interesting to sew, and I love the finished effect. Unsurprisingly, it’s much longer on me than it is on the model.
So there you go – some musings tossed in with some garment sewing information. Every time I put this combination on I feel like ‘me’ – that makes it a definite style winner in my book!