I’m not a fashionista. I think of clothes in terms of their usefulness, before I think of them in terms of their expressiveness. It’s hard to express yourself if you don’t feel comfortable in your clothes.
What is the TEI rating of this tank top? Seriously.
I live in central Canada, so the fact that I think “will this be warm enough?” a second before I think “is this a good colour on me?”, shouldn’t be too big of a surprise. Do you know what wind chill is? It is the devil’s work and for us Canucks, a major factor in all our fashion choices 10 months of the year.
Why does this shirt feel like steel wool?!
I touch everything before I even take it off the rack to get a look at, shopping by the feel of material, because I want to know if I’ll be comfortable in it. I try to stay away from fabrics that will make me sweatier than I already am, and those that show underarm sweat clearly. I also have a mild latex allergy, and fabrics with a high percentage of spandex (and other -ex ingredients) give me a rash. I love my leggings, so this something I pay close attention to.
Can I do yoga while wearing this?*
I want to be able to move around freely, raise my arms Kid’s Street style without pulling a seam, and slouch at my desk all day without having a waistband digging in to my very undefined waist.
It isn’t usually until after my long list of practical terms have been met that I think about what the clothes might look like. This may be why I’ve never really developed what I consider to be a cohesive style. And until I started sewing, I’ve never thought about how I want to look to others.
Be Present, and Present!
Because everything else aside, that’s what personal style is. It’s the look that you want to present to others. You don’t have to care about what they think. That doesn’t matter. But your style is your armour, or your uniform, or your second skin**. Whatever you want to call it. My “style” is a dress, cardigan or shrug, leggings and boots. In the oh so short Canadian summer, the leggings are capri length and my feet go around in ballet flats.
As I’m trying to decide on what to sew, I’ve noticed myself being much more aware than ever before about the shape that any given dress will give me. Until now it’s always been, “will it fit over my boobs?” and “can I move around comfortably in it?”. But NOW, because I know I can make it fit and make it comfortable, I think; “how will this actually look on me?”
Because the truth is, I don’t know. When you’ve been putting up with clothes that don’t fit well for your entire adult life, it’s really hard to actually KNOW how any given type of clothing is supposed to look. It’s a bit of a guessing game, even with all those “helpful” articles and infographics out there about body type and hiding your flaws.
I find the idea of body types or shapes problematic. I don’t really like being distilled down to a shape, especially when it’s not the “ideal” hourglass shape. Going by different charts, I’m either an inverted triangle or a wine glass, or when those aren’t an option I guess I’m a rectangle. I happen to think I’m human shaped, but I guess that’s just me.
The other problem is the frequent suggestion to dress in a way that “hides” your flaws. Take attention away from one area by focusing attention on another. I’m all for highlighting the parts we love about ourselves. Lips, hips, whatever! But you decide what you love about yourself, no one else does. You decide what you want to bring attention to, or not, because it’s what makes you feel good, not because a very biased set of fashion rules said so.
Build your silhouette
The fine art student in me complete understands the concept of balance and the Golden Ratio, that the hourglass is considered ideal because the proportions of the body are evenly distributed. That being said, that is only ONE way of balancing the body, not the only way. And there is also beauty in asymmetry – it is in fact a key principle in design. A good example you may have heard often in home decorating, is displaying things in threes.
In my first post I said that the reason I like Japanese patterns is because I like the clean lines. That is my prefered silhouette; clean but not harsh. It is also soft but not billowy. I’m not really going for a specific shape, but I do try to avoid looking like I’m wearing a tent. I reject the hourglass figure because in order to fake it, I would have to wear much fuller skirts, but I generally like my slim hips and legs and I want to show them off. And I don’t like binding things around my waist because I have serious bloating issues***, so dresses with a defined waist do not make me feel good physically or mentally.
I can’t boil it down to a single shape. I can’t give you a neat simile or a comparison. I can’t define it for anyone but myself. And for myself, I think of it as my silhouette rather than a shape. The difference being, in my mind, that my silhouette is the look I build for myself, the look I present to the world. If the world needs to define it as a shape, so be it. I’ve done my part.
So what is your silhouette?
*I don’t actually do yoga
**I think about makeup that way. I don’t wear a lot on a daily basis; powder foundation, eyeliner and mascara. But my makeup is something that grounds me and says “Bring it world!”. I also feel this way about putting on underwear and something other than sweatpants.
***IBS and endometriosis my sisters. You know the struggle.