Finding Personal Style through Sewing Trial and Error

Do you remember the first thing that you ever made?

I do, and I still have it!  It was a gathered skirt, drawstring bag and scarf made out of a green ditsy floral cotton print.  It was 1971; I was 8 years old; and it was my first 4-H project.  As I go through my closet, sorting through what to give away and what to keep, it dawns on me that I think that I'm finally figuring out my own personal style, and that it was there even with my first sewing project.

See the green and the blue in that print- that's exactly what I gravitate to now.  I wonder how much of our style is either genetically or environmentally passed down.  My Dad's favorite color was green, and my Mom's favorite color was aqua, so this print blended them together.

I have never been able to choose a favorite color myself.  I love them all.  And I've never been able to narrow down my style preferences either- I enjoy making and looking at a tailored suit as much as I enjoy making and looking at pajamas   The "making" is key- in my sewing journey, to learn as many techniques as possible, you need to make a wide variety of styles and work with a wide variety of fabrics.  But, in this journey, I've found that many of the things that I've made are not things that I end up wearing, and I would like to only make things that I will love to wear.

I've been blogging for 6 years now, and the nice thing about having this personal record is that I can look back and see things that I no longer have in my closet.  Otherwise, I'm sure that I would have long forgotten about them.  So, in my 6 years of having this blog, here are things that I've discovered about myself, and some pictures to support my conclusions:

1.  I don't like to wear structured clothes.  

Even if they fit well, I don't care for fitted clothes like jackets, close fitting skirts, pants, etc.  What does this mean for sewing?  Well, knits, knits and more knits.  I'll take a cardigan over a jacket, any day.  And I'll take a maxi skirt over a pencil skirt, any day.  And I'll take a tunic over a button front shirt, any day.

Here's an example of me in a structured vest.  I just look uncomfortable in it, like I can't wait to leave:

A structured vest that I wore once!
 And now an unstructured outfit- same pose, but more me:
Sure, I'll take a second glass of wine!

2.  I don't like to wear really bright colors that call attention, except for activewear. 

 I've got some nice bright red dresses that fit well and look nice, but I don't feel comfortable wearing them.  Just give me something more subtle that blends in.  Except for activewear- I jog (occasionally), and I like for traffic to see me, so my activewear is as bright as possible!

Here I am in a bright red dress.  Whoa, where are my sunglasses?
A red dress that was just too much!

Oh, here they are.   And now a similar dress in a more subdued burgundy.  Way more comfortable.

3.  I don't like to wear black or white on the top.

I've consistently bought white shirts that never see the light of day. An off white or ivory- yes, but a true white, no.   I will wear black leggings and yoga pants, but never black shirts or dresses.  The look is too dramatic for me.  Here's a black top on me.  I think I look about 10 years older:
Who is this person?  I don't recognize myself in this outfit!
And a softer color at the face.  Again, same pose, much better.

4.  I do like to wear abstract prints, stripes, and textures.   I generally don't care for animal prints, plaids and florals, but not always.  The florals that I do like tend to be abstract florals- some sort of geometric variation or colorway that doesn't really exist.

Here's an example of a dress that was an animal print ITY dress in black and white.  It never, ever saw the light of day in the real world.  And the black structured jacket is all wrong.  It sounded good in theory, but it just wasn't me.

And here is a striped dress with a less structured jacket.  The stripes, the color, the fabrication, is all better for me.

5.  I love to wear natural fibers- cotton, rayon, silk, linen and wool.  I gave away quite a few things made from synthetic ITY knits.  They just feel too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  I do like activewear synthetic fibers though, so go figure.  

6.  I like to wear activewear, but I don't have to sew it.    Good activewear fabric is hard to find and expensive.  I've been quite pleased with the stuff that I can get at JCP and Target.

7.  I like to wear skirts and dresses.  For work wear, I will wear a skirt or dress 9 times out of 10, even in the most dreadful weather.  They are just more comfortable to me.  If I'm going to wear pants, they need to be stretchy.  Here is a pair of straight leg woven pants in a color that's too bright for me.  Never wore them:

Straight legged pants in bright orange- what was I thinking?

And here are pants that are more like a skirt:

8.  Blues, greens, greys, pinks and purples are my go to colors.
If I could stick with this palette, I'd be smart.

Which brings me back to square one- my first 4-H Sewing project.  Blue and green! Here is my second 4-H project:
My second 4-H Project- more green and blue!

I feel like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz coming full circle.  It only took me 4 plus decades to realize what I already knew at age 8.

And as I age, and fabric and styles evolve, I'll still have to experiment to see what works and what doesn't.  But, I hopefully will make better guesses with some of this information under my belt.

Have you discovered something about your personal style through sewing?  What works and doesn't work for you?



  1. I know what you mean. I have definitely figured out my style over the years. I often dream of things, but in the end, my lifestyle wins out on what I wear, so it's a waste of time and money to sew those dream things that really aren't me and will just sit in my closet and collect dust.

    1. Yes, I hate to think of all of the time that I've spent making things that I haven't worn. But, then again, I know that I learned something with each project, so that is valuable in itself.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your style, it was fun to read. I find myself heading in a certain direction for clothing now and so much more comfortable.

    1. You're welcome, Lori. It's nice to have a basic direction to go in, isn't it?

  3. Thanks for sharing the development of your style process. I found it very interesting. I am still in the process of developing my own style but I think I am making progress.

    1. Thanks, Jean Margaret. I imagine that people who like to sew will always be in process, as we don't want to only make the same thing over and over.

  4. The photo contrasts are stunning. Thanks for taking me back to basics.

    1. Thanks, Jan. Having a blog and needing to take photos for it have certainly helped me to see what I like and don't like.

  5. As I was reading your post, I kept saying "she's a summer!"

    Then I got to the end.

    Yup - a summer! Signed - Mary (a summer)

    1. Hi Mary,
      Yes, I think so. I used to not be so sure, but after looking at these pictures, I'm convinced!

  6. Such a great post. My sewing style has always been trendy with and edge! I would say 97% percent of my patterns are McCalls and what I sewed ten years ago I can update today, which is so funny to me. I remember my mother sewing a wrap skirt and would you believe she still wears it, same for culottes always love them and look this summer they are back, same with jumpers and "maxi skirts" which were always long skirts to me, lol! That what I love about sewing, you know what works for you and you always look great.

    1. That's great that you have identified a favorite pattern company that fits your style as well! I've kind of been gravitating towards Ottobre this year, but I could never give up my Vogues. Your mother sounds super cool- I bet she looks great.

  7. What an interesting post -- the photos and comments make a good case for your knowing your own style! I've been thinking about this myself lately -- I don't seem to have a style. I'm in the stage of making everything, for the process and the learning. I like so many different things. I hope that by looking at what I've made in the way that you have, I'll be able to narrow down my own style a bit. Eventually ;)

    1. Good luck in your process! If you're like me, you'll find that you just reach for what is your style in your closet, and push aside the rest. It takes time to figure it all out though!


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