Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

What Do You Think – Style?


Personal sewing is in progress but not much to show and tell and I’ve been working on a secret project which I can’t reveal yet………. so I’ve been thinking……….

Style icons and icons who have style.

Recently on a girly weekend away and I mentioned to my best mates that I’d love to have “A Style” – one that as soon as you saw it you would think – Ruth!

Partly it’s down to dressing for your shape but then certain dressing styles can also change or disguise your shape; a good tailored jacket can minimise round shoulders. Looking your best also means dressing for your colour but as home sewers we are free to select our own palette whether we suit it or not; it is gorgeous fabric after all!

FabricKated has always good and forthright advice on style – what suits and what doesn’t and sits very comfortably in her own classic and couture 1960s style. Margy with her distinctive monochrome and dash of red that somehow on her looks colourful. Gertie with the 1950s vibe but is still up to date. Twotoast with her recent layered look that is both simple and comfortable yet well thought out and put together. You know what I mean?

I want that! It is so difficult to choose which style is MINE.

Sometimes I like sloppy; sometimes I like couture; sometimes I like RTW; sometimes I like dresses and sometimes I prefer jeans; sometimes I wear high heels and then again I like flats; sometimes I like whatever is clean and ironed! At the same time as wanting a defined style I don’t want to be limited to only wearing (and making) one shape of dress with slight variations.

So far this summer I’ve been collecting patterns in an attempt to narrow down and define “my style”. I haven’t sewed anything much yet as I keep flitting from one idea to another. I started with Alabama Chanin – cotton jersey, comfy and totally wearable all day: have moved to Drape Drape 2 with a couple of asymmetrical Japanese tops: made a Style Arc top: have Donna Karan Vogue 1440 still in circulation with the intention of making another shirt and jacket. Now, just look at all those different styles and shapes – Do you see a common denominator because it’s escaping me?


AC style


Japanese draped and asymmetrical


Loose and casual StyleArc


Formal and fashionable Donna Karan

To throw another ingredient into the mix most recently I bought Merchant and Mills Workbook – ‘a collection of versatile sewing patterns for an elegant All season Wardrobe’.

DSCN5356 2


I love to love this company with their brown paper parcels tied up with string aesthetic. From the introduction:

“..there was a simpler time when ‘clothing’ had clear and explicit tasks; to keep us warm and covered up.

As the population grew and our tiny brains grew exponentially…..what we wore became a statement, an overt visible admission of who we thought ourselves to be for all to opine upon.

At some invisible point in time, fashion grew a capital ‘F’ and became important.”

The book has six patterns printed Burda-style on paper which has to be traced off. The clothing is relaxed made best in natural fabrics like linen, cotton and silk which highlight the unstructured and simple lines. There are variations for some pieces which gives a total of 11 garments – of course you can make a skirt any length you want, so the variations are endless.


The straightforwardness of the designs belie the detailed instructions for construction and attention to finishing details. It is not a book for absolute beginners, you do need to know a bit about sewing techniques and tailoring for the jacket. I’ve just ordered a small haul of linen and when it arrives shall start making and report back. You can then critique this style on me!

So, I also like the unstructured and natural.

Is liking a style, enough to make you suit it?

I’ve just finished watching a marathon of House of Cards and my current style icon is the First Lady Clare Underwood. Her clothes are what I want! Oh I know it’s a TV programme and it’s not really real, but how I would love to wear Manolo Blanik for 48hrs. How does one wear a pencil skirt with a back centre split and it doesn’t crease when you sit down? How do you keep a wrap chiffon blouse from gaping in front of  the media?


Is a strong personality “The Style” and the clothes merely follow, or is it the otherway around – dress well and your confidence grows? Chicken and egg question.

So who is YOUR style icon? Do you have one? And why? Can you define your own style?


25 thoughts on “What Do You Think – Style?

  1. Ruth your style is not the fabric or colour or shape – your style only becomes evident when you put the clothes on. Your personality, smile twinkle in your eye is what transforms what you make into instantly recognisable” Ruth style”. While I follow your blog to see what and how you make things – what I really enjoy is the way your garments come alive when you put then on. You have a style that is uniquely you, Id recognise you anywhere and we live on opposite sides of the world

    • Thank you Faye for your comment. I know what you mean about ‘wearing’ the clothes as the same item will took totally different on two different people – style incorporated into personality – like it. Thanks again.

      • I haven’t read the comments past Faye’s but I want to echo what she said and add that whenever I’ve looked at the SPR gallery, I’ve always guessed by the pictures that it’s you, and I’m talking those pictures where the head is cut off.

        That M&M book does look tempting (a friend has it) and by making every garment you’d end up with a particularly distinct wardrobe, one that’s very different from the AChanin stuff you’ve been making.

  2. My style is indefinable too, but I love your choices so maybe we might share some similarities. Co-incidentally I’ve recently been thinking about what clothing is truly “me” and decided it’s not definitely one single look. I also think I’m in transition as I’m get older and my lifestyle is more casual and my body is changing. Don’t forget what you enjoy sewing is possibly not what is your real style either . I like to be challenged in my sewing and realised I often make things for the process, not the end result. In the end I decided comfort/ease of wear is most important, followed a very close second by slightly edgy semi-fitted designs, tonal, warm colours and I love to incorporate new/fashionable ideas into my wardrobe. Good luck in your quest to hone your look, you’ve made some fantastic choices already.

    • Maybe that is the style – indefinable, mixed-up but unique because no-one will ever have a garment like ours as we make them! Thanks for your comment and – blog more often please……

  3. “Is liking a style, enough to make you suit it?” If you like it enough to make or wear it, I think yes. Because it suits YOU. I can always tell when you really like something you’ve made or are wearing – your body language and face in your pics shows it. You’re wearing the garment, it’s not wearing you. My approach to my own style is, if I like something and want to wear it, I do. And it’s my style. I show a lot of maxi dresses and skirts, loose tops, casual pants, and so on, on my blog. I imagine that’s how I’m ‘known’ to readers. But there are other sides of me that I don’t show, ‘dressier’ and more occasion oriented. Seasons other than Florida’s never-ending tropical heat. Or business attire, which I didn’t sew, mine was all RTW, mostly suits with appropriate evening wear for dinners and so on – lived in them for 30 years and really enjoy them even now. Those sides haven’t gone away.

    For me and IMHO, a style that embraces many looks and preferences is way more interesting than one that predictable.

    • Perfectly said Coco – sorry for assuming you wore only maxis and tunics that was rather narrow minded of me. When I think about I still have a lot of RTW but I don’t show pictures of me wearing that! You’re absolutely right – we all have different sides and moods and dress to suit. Thank you for expanding my horizons and pointing out the obvious which I obviously overlooked!

  4. I’m with coco- love it, wear it. Oh and by the way- your style? Casual, grown-up sexy. Thus saith The Fairy.

    • Yep, I’m beginning to think we make the clothes work for our own, quite possibly, indefinable style. Grown-up? Really? That might just be a Freudian reaction cover up a childish attitude -LOL.

      • Bearing in mind that the same pattern looks totally different in various fabrics, I think it’s largely the fabric choice that says a lot about us- classy, luxe fabrics v cheap and cheerful bargainalicious…personally, I’m all over the shop, and think my wardrobe’s pretty eclectic. Maybe I’m just a chaoti,c disorganised, indecisive slob though…

  5. This is a very interesting post Ruth.

    In my opinion the most stylish people are also completely original – Schiaparelli, Mrs Simpson, Coco Chanel, Frida Khalo, Isabella Blow for example – and they just break all the rules and wear clothes in a completely new way.

    Ruth – you can have any style you want because you can create absolutely anything. You have a great figure, striking colouring and a warm, lively personality. There is an eclecticism in your wardrobe – and that is fine because I think you thrive on variety.

    I am from the school of thought that believes there is an ideal style and a best colour palette for everyone (and it is a relief to find it) – but I also believe in individuality and breaking the rules if it makes sense.

    • Ah – a better word than indefinable – Eclectic!
      It is also a lot of fun trying new shapes and colours, sort of test driving them to see if they fit in with lifestyle and comfort. I certainly know that I have sewn things that I would never have bought as RTW so that has been an adventure too. Thanks Kate.

  6. A style is like creating a persona. I don’t want one, its too much fun to try out different things.

    • Why do I not follow you already? Am now…. I see similarities in what you make and what I make – thanks Jay. We can be stylishly eclectic together!

  7. the miserabilist said: “Don’t forget what you enjoy sewing is possibly not what is your real style either . I like to be challenged in my sewing and realised I often make things for the process, not the end result. ”

    This is at the nub of what makes style a stickier wicket for sewists than for the average jane on the street. What you like to sew may not reflect what you really like to wear or how you really want to look. This can make identifying and then cultivating your own personal style more difficult, as you may have clothes that were so fun to sew but not so much to wear cluttering up your closet, or you may get bored sewing the stuff that you could really use in your closet.

    There’s a million exercises to help you nail down your style, one that seems to help everyone is to photo what you wear every day for a month. Take notes on if you like or not at the time, then sit down after and think it thru.

    Another consideration – some people really want to create a very easily recognizable, consistent style (raises hand). Other people are much more catholic in their tastes and how they want to be seen. Neither approach is right or wrong (tho for public figures the first has many advantages, to wit see mr. underwood;)

    What i notice about your style: overall simple silhouette which follows the body, luxe fabrics (why you love all that alabama chanin, natch!), a sporty/practical side (again why you love the AC, all that cotton jersey and easy to move in shapes) but always a strong femme/sexy note – tousled hair, makeup, heels!!! showing off leg and ankle to advantage – again, here when you do veer away from a body-skimming silhouette it tends to be with draped silk, etc. which invite touch and show the body thru motion rather than using hard architectural shapes.

    sorry for the wall of text, but personal style is one of my favourite topics! thanks for an interesting discussion Ruth and everyone in the comments!

    • Hi Stephanie, thanks so much for your well thought out comments (that sounded a bit like teacher feedback there but I really appreciate it).
      Sometimes when I sew things and then only wear once, I tend to blame my fabric choice rather than the style so you have made me think about those items that, as you say, were fun to sew but not fun to wear.

      I think as sewers we are so much more aware of our body shape – its flaws and beauties – and perhaps we develop an instinctive intuition to what suits us through the trial and error method. You always know when something looks ‘right’ because you feel ‘right’ too.
      Thanks again.

      • aw, you’re welcome 🙂 as i said, i just love this type of discussion – Kate’s analysis of Ruth is wonderful, i’m so excited to follow it!

        today as i ate my breakfast smoothie the word ‘gamine’ came to mind. Thought i’d let you know in case it resonates or if you might want to research a little and see what you think.

        It’s fun to come up with a good style descriptor, but by no means is it essential. Some people just know what they like and have no trouble finding/making it or have no interest for whatever reason. I find it most helpful for people really trying to hone their own personal style due to changes in circumstances (new job, retiring, new climate – Angela makes a great point about how climate influences style – etc.) or due to entering a new time of life. Sometimes the old way just feels stale. But a nice style descriptor can really help a person focus while building a wardrobe.

  8. Hmm……I tend to agree with coco, I wear what I like or am in the mood for, at any given moment, although within certain parameters. I think climate is an important but overlooked factor of style. I have always lived in the south of the US, so clothes that might not be considered “stylish” in the northeast are perfect for here: seersucker, linen, cottons, loose. I think that’s why I like lots of the Australian Tessuti styles. Also, body shape. I enjoy seeing fit and flare dresses on others, but that is a disastrous look on my thick cylinder of a body. I am tall with broad shoulders, so tiny fussy twee stuff which may look lovely on a petite figure do not suit me. I gravitate towards simple shapes that hang from the shoulder. And I love texture! At the same time I like exploring different looks, sometimes more successfully than others;) I don’t want to be pinned down to a certain “style”. You are such a vibrant personality! I admire your many looks and am inspired by them. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Angela! I really can’t imagine what it would be like wearing a black pencil skirt and high heels with a Chanel boucle jacket in high humidity and soaring temperatures! You’re right – dressing appropriately just might be the overarching key to personal style.
      Thank you.

    • Hi Angela! yes, climate makes a huge impact on style, but still individuals can interpret ‘appropriate’ so differently. Cotton capris and a polo shirt, slouchy seersucker trousers and a linen blouse, or an edwardian lacey cami with a petticoat-inspired skirt are all comfortable in a hot climate but say very different things about the wearer’s personality.

      Obviously i need to get my blog fired up again 😉 Happy Day!

  9. The most important thing about style in knowing what styles are NOT you. Like knowing what colors fight with your own natural coloring. Being open to everything that is not strictly NOT YOU is very freeing. For me trying on the clothes I make for my client Nancy tells me just because we have some measurements the same and closeness in age, she has her own limits and I have mine. Climate does enter into the mix along with changing lifestyles and work demands and aging body shapes…it’s a freaking battle out there! There are clothes we love to make but hate to wear and vice versa…finding the balance is key…good luck, Ruth.

  10. I tried for years to have ‘a style’, and then I began sewing…and it just happened. I don’t believe ‘dressing for your shape’ is the first piece of having a style, I believe going with your gut is. If you have an urge to wear certain things and you go with it, your style will evolve naturally and be recognizable as ‘you’. Making sure your garments fit it something everyone can do, but it doesn’t create a personal style! At the most it makes your personal style look that much better on you.

  11. I see one woman regularly in a shop I volunteer in and I long to be like her – eclectic (!), original, age indifferent…. and I cannot begin to think how to achieve it. I thought I didn’t have a ‘style’ and then one of my grown up sons commented on something I had made – ‘it’s different to your usual style’ which when pushed he described as ‘very slightly sixties but updated’ and I realised I do have a style! I do go off piste from time to time but basically he is right. That is the look I feel best in and I enjoy sewing.

  12. I think style comes from being authentic to self. I spent a lot of my youth copying other people and missed being really stylish when I was at my best. Conversely you don’t have to wear your clothes like a personal uniform. I have a business style, a boho chic look and a casual style. I always aim for simplicity and am the first to confess that I don’t always get it right.

  13. Having a style works well for some – twotoast looked great and so well put together in your link – but it’s too confining for many of us. Mrsmole hit it on the head with avoiding the definite no-nos. Maybe you have some sort of undefined style anyway – I thought you lived in America from the first photo’s I saw… so there’s something 🙂

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