The Elusive Sew Style Hero

Hi everyone, it’s Kate here! I’m one of the editors here at Sewcialists blog and I run my own sustainable sewing blog over at Time to Sew (you can also find me on Instagram). When the August theme was published, I knew that I really wanted to write a post about the challenges with finding personal style and how I have never found any particular style hero. This isn’t about being a downer on the theme month — what I love about Sewcialists is that it champions inclusiveness and having different opinions from many different people.

What is a style hero anyway?

There probably isn’t a strict definition for this, but I’m guessing that whilst there are many of us who can immediately say “I love… <insert style hero or icon of choice>” probably just as many of us don’t have anyone that springs to mind. Fashion magazines will point out celebrity style heroes, and we can probably all rattle off at least one well known person from, say, the last 70 years who is famous for style. But why did we decide that they would be the style heroes? What gives someone hero (or icon) status? And does that mean we are obliged to aspire to it?

Being inspired by everything

Becky’s post about being a fashion commitment-phobe and wanting to wear all. the. clothes. really made me laugh — I’m in the same bucket! In an world where we consume so much media content and information, its easy to be a magpie and always head towards the next new shiny thing. In the past few years, its not just traditional advertising that has provided inspiration. The ease with which anyone can create content on social media means that advertising and inspiration is all around us every day, whether we like it or not. Every time we tag a fabric shop or a pattern maker it can end up like free advertising, unintentional or otherwise. The question is how much you choose to absorb it. I wrote more extensively about the psychology of sewing FOMO (fear of missing out), advertising and social media on my blog here.

Time to sew lottie dress

How you wear a garment is different from anyone else

I’ve noticed that style heroes often gravitate towards a particular look. But that’s how they wear and interpret that look, and when you look at it, you’re seeing how great it looks on them. Of course I’m not suggesting that you can’t love it, want it or try it. But I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that pictures in magazines of style heroes, advertising or social media often just don’t work for me!

In that sense, sewing is so useful to get the look that you want. Even if it can be a risky enterprise to put all that effort into making a garment and not know precisely how it will turn out until you’ve made a significant investment into it.

Being unique and being you

Last year Naomi from Starting Stitch did a survey of 79 people aged 6 to 40 years for her dissertation, which explored the difference in the experience of the sewing hobby by under 40s compared to over 40s. Here are the themes from the post:

why sew sew

The last point on self awareness really resonates with me, and I’d add that I love the ability of clothes to be an opportunity for self expression. Given that there does seem to be a finite number of socially acceptable styles of clothing (how many unconventional outfits do you see in a day when you walk down the street?) it is a challenge to try and look unique without attracting the “that’s so out there” type of comments.

Dominique Major from Suzy Magazine wrote recently about the challenge with remaining original when your mind can be oversaturated by what everyone else is doing. And that it is not uncommon to be wearing the same thing as someone else when heading to a sewing meet up (in the UK anyway). I had an incident recently where I didn’t wear a dress that would have totally suited a party theme and I was weirdly disappointed in myself. You can read about it here (it’s part of the sewing FOMO post I referenced earlier).

Its ok not to have a style hero

When I started my sewing journey, I learned to sew with an indie fabric shop, and I got hooked on sewing. But were the pattern makers my style heroes? Well, not really. Was I really thinking about my wardrobe and what I would wear? Yes and no; I don’t think anyone makes things they don’t think they will like, but whether it is a wardrobe hero to be worn for years is a different story. Looking back now, I think my first few years of sewing became a default replacement for browsing fashion magazines and websites. Rather than actually thinking consciously about personal style and making things to be sustainable and to last.

These days style heroes are still a mystery to me but I’m ok with that. In the absence of having a lot of pattern drafting skills, I like to mess around with hacking patterns so it feels more “me”. Luckily, sewing works because no one has made the decision for me about what colour, style, fabric a garment has to be (unlike in ready to wear). There is inspiration to be found everywhere and I’m ok with liking whatever random thing it is that strikes me when I see it!

How do you feel about style heroes? Where do you find your inspiration and how do you make things feel more you? Do you want to stand out from the crowd and be totally out there, or do you prefer more muted clothing that looks more classic?