A linen Sway Dress

I absolutely loved reading the comments on my last post.  So many of you were so kind about my dress and how I should embrace what I want to wear - because if I feel good then that is all that matters. Thank you! The best bit was reading everyone's thoughts on their own personal style evolution and how they feel now compared to how they felt at 19. I could relate to pretty much everything and it was so lovely to read so many different stories.  Thank you!

The comments were pretty much unanimous in how comfort in your own skin and feeling more at ease with oneself and one’s style seems to come as we get older and we fundamentally give less of a damn as to what other people think, or have realised that, on the whole, people are too busy thinking their own thoughts to pass judgement on other randoms in the street. I absolutely agree with this. I try to wear what makes me happy, which one day (thanks to all the supportive comments) will be a figure hugging red stretch dress and the next will be this linen tent. 

Oh the joys of fickle magpie fashion tendencies.

Last year, for some reason, I tracked down Gray Line Linen in the Garment District and went a bit mad. I say for some reason, as linen and I don't generally rub along that well together.  I'm not a huge fan of the artfully crumpled look - mainly because I just look like I forgot to iron (purposeful forgetting is usually the case when it comes to me and ironing) rather than attractively relaxed and often the silhouettes that linen fabrics are made into - in RTW - are not to my taste.  I do see the attraction of a beautiful soft linen and its breeziness for sticky summer days, but that doesn't, or at least hasn't to date, really translated into garments for me.  So it was especially strange to be buying a fabric I don't love that was not the finest kind, for that read; it's pretty stiff and scratchy.  But I am a sucker for a stripe and a windowpane, so this ended up coming home with me. 

Only to sit unused for a year.

A while back whilst doing the bi-monthly ritualistic ‘let’s match fabric to pattern and daunt myself with an absurdly unachievable seasonal sewing list’, I had a thought to turn this windowpane into a Lexi top until I realised the pattern called for a stable stretch fabric.  I considered inserting a back opening / fastening but crispness is the order of the day for such a pattern and this linen whilst stiff and scratchy would not stay crisp for very long.  And clearly has no stretch.

I can't remember what lead me to the Sway Dress by Papercut Patterns and this fabric as a match instead - particularly as the pattern held little interest for me when I first saw it - but I do know that I wanted to sew this up as something that would work with the stiffness of the linen rather than fight it and the swingy shape of the Sway Dress enables just that - it creates the perfect tent.  Seriously, I could ditch my kids' play tent and just use this. Double duty. And they'd then have room to swing a cat in their bedroom. 

The Sway Dress is quite possibly the simplest dress pattern in the world - no darts, no fastenings, no real fitting to be done; unless of course you're a lanky giant with an absurdly long chest and swimmer's shoulders (without actually being a swimmer), and an all-in-one facing that means no fiddly binding on the neck and armpits.  

May I just draw your attention to that pattern matching down the centre front seam ...

Simple. But at the same time with lovely details; the close fit through the chest and shoulders that tames the tent a little and the fact that you can wear it with the V at the front or at the back. 

... and down the back!

I chose the back and because I needed to make a half inch forward shoulder adjustment, I can't easily wear it the other way.  I could probably have done with a half inch broad back adjustment as well as I think it might pull a little. I did increase the chest length by half an inch. This is as simple as cutting across the pattern piece through the armhole and inserting some paper and rejoining the armhole.  Which is great (unless there are sleeves involved then it gets a little more tricky), as for me this ensures the armhole isn't too tight and also moves the bust point to, or closer to the correct point.  Even though there are no darts here, I can assume that the bust point will be too high for me as this is a standard fitting issue I have.

Going by my bust measurement, I cut an XS in the longer length - even though I don't intend to use a waist tie - as the short length looks like it would be indecent on me. I did end up cutting 4 inches off the hem (better that way around) as the hem length is crucial in this fabric to avoid this being about as flattering as a bin bag.  

It is such a simple pattern and really quick to sew and I could see making it in a very fluid silk would create such a different dress.   Thing number 218 that I love about sewing patterns - the versatility and never ending options from just one pattern.  

I’m pretty pleased with the outcome of this combination of pattern and fabric.  I don’t always get that right, but increasingly I’m learning what does and doesn’t work for a particular style and silhouette. It again, is a very personal thing that relates to one’s own style and the fabrics we as individuals like to wear - I’m defo a natural fibres girl (to be frank, synthetics just make me sweaty) who goes easy on the prints (large-scale florals aside 1, 2, 3…) 

So I’d love to know how you determine whether a fabric is suitable for your vision (recommended fabrics aside)?

And which are you most likely to change to suit - the fabric or the pattern choice?

Thanks again for the uplifting and generous comments. This is truly a special community to be part of.

See you soon xx

Evolution of style

I had this lovely, incredibly stylish, incredibly modern great aunt, my Auntie Bennie. She was an exceptional lady.  In her late 80s she was fit and healthy and still going shopping with her granddaughters and spending a heap on the beautiful well-made clothes that she loved to wear. It is clearly in my genes - she was my mum's aunt and my mum and I definitely share that trait.

Anyway, the point of telling this is that a while before she died, she told me that she was eighty-whatever but really didn't understand that as she still felt like she was 19.

I really didn't get it at the time, and I'm not quite at that wonderful age yet, but I am starting to get a feeling for what she meant.  I really don't mind being 41, but at the same time, I can't quite get my head around the fact that I am.  I don't feel any different to how I did when I was 19.  Yes, those 20 plus years have seen me do lots of things and I'm much more worldly and experienced, but my feeling of my place in the world and how I respond to people around me is very similar to that of when I was 19.  

I still think that anyone who is famous must be older than me.  

I still find it easier being told what to do rather than being the one in authority (which can be tricky sometimes as a mother.)

I still have many of the same hang ups as that very naïve fresher at university (and my relationships with my friends from those days hasn't evolved much beyond that.)

And one of the things I have found the hardest to get to grips with over the last few years is how my personal style has needed to evolve as I get older.  I try very hard not to put myself into a bracket when it comes to the clothes I wear - I love to have different looks for different moods - but sometimes I now think twice about whether a particular style is really appropriate for me at this stage in my life.  It's not just about hemlines and length or lack thereof.  It's about overall silhouettes; how an armhole may be cutaway; a really low neckline; is it really appropriate for me to wear a crop top (coming from someone accustomed to 90s clubbing in a mini skirt and crop top that really was essentially only a bra this is difficult to let go of); is something I'm making or wearing just a little bit too trendy and a little bit too young for me?

And then there's the converse.  I have this photo taken at the birthday party of my friend's son.  It was just before I had children, I was in my mid 30s and clearly was struggling to figure out my style.  I'm wearing a uniform of ill-fitting jeans, a white round neck t-shirt and some shapeless long cardigan thing and the ubiquitous scarf around my neck and I look dreadful.  I look older than I am now and so uncomfortable in my own skin.

Now, I rage against that feeling and spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of ways to dress that fit somewhere between these two parts of me.  And slowly I think I'm making it work and finding my style groove. I certainly feel a lot happier about the way I dress nowadays and I certainly care a lot less what other people think of what I'm wearing. Or what they think about how much I think about what I'm wearing!

However, then I make things like this dress and I struggle to know whether it is something that I can get away with.  And if it is, will I actually wear it as it's pretty far out of my comfort zone.

It's a funny old dress this, it's not demure, but is quite restrained with the high neck and knee length skirt, but then "sexy as hell" to quote my photographer, with the cutaway armhole and skintight bodice.  It involves a lot of stomach holding in but is supremely comfortable and those Named girls have absolutely nailed the drafting. This is the Beatrix Skater Dress from their latest 'Royals' collection. The shape of the back bodice and armhole is just beautiful and the panels of the skirt give it the most perfect movement. I even like the turtle neck, which is not a trend I'm really into. They really are some talented cookies.

I managed to get exactly the fabric I was looking for - a brick red rayon ponte - lots of weight to it and just the right amount of stretch. It's a quick and easy make - I only had to make one adjustment - adding an inch to the bodice length - although I did also do a forward shoulder adjustment, which is hilarious given there is essentially no shoulder seam to adjust.  Dumbass.  

Beatrix dress 4

And then I went to town on my serger. This is where my lack of experience with that darn machine shows.  I just couldn't get the seams not to 'smile' no matter what I did with the tension. It wasn't helped by the fact that I only have navy, white or grey thread for my serger, so the thread peeking through to the right side was sooo obvious.  I couldn't be bothered to spend an age working out how to fix the sergerness, so once I'd serged I sewed the seam with a stretch stitch on my machine, just inside the serging line. So I now have the most robust seams of any knit dress in the history of the world.

The only other construction delight of note was my decision to use fold over elastic to bind the armholes.  I'm really not sure if this is a legitimate use of FOE, but it worked a treat and I imagine will be much less likely to stretch out than any attempt I might have made to use self-made knit bias binding - which just makes me shudder at the very thought of trying to create that.

Looking at these photos (which are a bit grainy I'm afraid), I really love this dress, am super pleased with the finish and the fit. I like that I can make it all fancy with heels and maybe this jacket or cas' (as in the shortened version of the word casual) it down with a denim jacket and flats.  However, I'm still a little unsure how much I'll wear it; I think I can just about get away with it ..?? 

Incidentally, I realised recently that my denim jacket might well be vintage.  I bought it brand spanking new in c. 1994 and it's one of the few things I've held on to, so now I might be officially old enough to have first time around goods that class as vintage. I'm really not sure how I feel about that.  And I'm sure my 19 year old self would think that was completely unfathomable.

So, how old does something have to be to be labelled 'vintage' (and I appreciate that that is used on pretty much anything to sell it these days)?

Do you feel any different to your 19 year old self? (You can only answer that if you are older than 26!) 

And how has getting older impacted how you view your wardrobe? 

And how would you spell cas'?!

See you soon x