A few weeks ago I took several hours to work on my wedding dress. Working from a sketch I made in the fall, I’ve been slowly constructing parts of the gown: adding structure to the bodice, cutting & piecing boning along the seams, adjusting the skirt pieces to reduce fullness. I finally stitched everything together enough to slip it on and look in the mirror. My heart fell. It didn’t feel like me.
I immediately panicked. When you’ve been working under the assumptions of a plan, it can be disheartening to realize the plan isn’t right. For months I was certain the style was what I wanted. But it felt foreign and almost like I was playing dress-up as a bride. I kept pacing back and forth, asking Les, “What’s wrong with it? Why don’t I like it?” He gave me a hug and reassured me that I’d figure it out.
The next day I cut and sewed a completely different dress — sleeker design lines, shorter hemline, competely different silhouette to the first gown. I slipped it on, and looked in the mirror. I sent a photo of the new design to several trusted friends. The reaction was the same: “That’s so you.”
STYLES CHANGE, PREFERENCES CHANGE
It makes sense that our personal style changes over time. If we’re doing this life thing right, we’re constantly learning, growing, adapting, and becoming better versions of ourselves. Just as each decade has a unique fashion footprint, so the seasons of our lives mimic the change. Careers, life events, even personal preferences shift over time, and our wardrobes (for better or for worse), reflect our individuality and personality.
Women’s fashion in particular has shifted over time: women transitioning from home life to the workforce, protesting for equal rights, and fully entering the sexual revoluation have all impacted style. It’s hard to believe there was a period in time when wearing pants was seen as a liberated, political act.
PERSONAL STYLE SHIFT
Before I was making my own clothes, my wardrobe was pretty consistent (and boring): dress pants, blouses, blazers, a few pencil skirts and shift dresses. Think business attire in black, grey, and navy tones. My original intent with learning to sew was to recreate this wardrobe but in higher quality fabrics and better fitting garments. I soon realized that sewing dark, solid fabric day after day was boring. My eye was drawn to crazy, wild colors and patterns.
After a few years of making anything and everything, I slowly fell into a new uniform. Enter Exhibit A:
The formula is pretty simple: fitted top (in this case specifically a bodysuit), paired with a full gathered/pleated/circle skirt. I sewed many variations on this particular theme, creating a closet full of skirts in various prints and fabrics, and close to 10 solid-colored identical tops. This uniform ruled my wardrobe from 2014-2015 and I still look back on it with a whimsical appreciation: the outfits are colorful, flattering, and echo a 1950s charm. They were also convenient. Everything mixed and matched, and getting dressed each day was incredibly efficient.
Fast-forward to Fall 2016: a time of preparing for new businesses to launch, the excitement of cooler weather (I love fall), and a shift, albeit slight, in the uniform:
A keen eye will notice that this is merely a sleeker version of the above uniform: a slimmer (but a-line) skirt; fitted turtleneck or sweater tucked in to accentuate the waist; bright but slightly muted color palette. The silhouette is much more 1960s than 1950s despite the subtle change in style.
That brings us to winter/spring (which is it, East Tennessee?!) 2018. Somewhere during the fall, I started creating sleeker, more streamlined dresses. Utilizing a more 1960s silhouette but in one piece, I created several new dresses with slight variations, but all producing the same effect: slimmer through the hips, more form fitted, shorter hemline.
The fabrics have also shifted: there’s only one print among this group of dresses and it’s a very elaborate Italian brocade. Two of these include design elements I created myself: bishop sleeves on the lower right dress, and a front pleat detail on the lower left. The fit overall is closer to the body. The look is more professional, more mature, more “business.”
I regularly post photos of my handmade garments, but I never took the time to analyze my style preferences until I was faced with a major sewing project: my wedding dress. Despite the vision in my head that this design was what I wanted, the reality fell short.
The problem is that while this is very much a silhouette I once adored (see Exhibit A), it’s no longer the foundation of my wardrobe. It may have suited me then, but it doesn’t suit me now. I felt like I was in costume, like an imposter. It simply wasn’t me.
WEAR WHAT YOU LOVE
Luckily, I’m a seamstress and I can (and did) create a new dress for my wedding. (Stay tuned.) But this experience made me consider an even greater point: our clothing tells the world who, and where we are in life. Regardless of why you wear what you wear, I believe in wearing clothing that I love, that makes me feel fabulous & invincible, and that celebrates the uniqueness of my body with all its curves and flaws. I believe in wearing clothing that genuinely feels like me.
My style will inevitably shift again — when I become a mother or age gracefully — and I’m excited to see what I’m creating 10, 20 and 30 years from now. I look forward to looking back to see where life, and my style, takes me.