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.
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:
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?
I have a few style heroines (they are women 🙂 ) but as I gaze at them, I’m aware that what they’re wearing just wouldn’t look QUITE like that on me. They wear that style with a panache I’ve never quite been able to cultivate which is why I don’t make garments like the ones they’re wearing. I am one of those “older” sewists. Because I’ve been dressing this adult body (which has changed very little since I was 16) for almost 50 years, I have a pretty good idea about what compliments me and an excellent perspective on what DOESN’T. That hasn’t stopped me however from buying far too many patterns (many of which probably wouldn’t suit me) and I attribute that to vain imaginings as I look at all the things 🙂 I am a relatively new sewist in this modern age of social media, blogging and vlogging which I keenly follow because it’s just so much fun. I sewed sporadically (1968 – 1977) then stopped and picked it up again at my 60th birthday (2015 – present), I was blind-sided by the whole online, indie, instructional videos, social media explosion that was happening in sewing. I kept saying to anyone who would listen, “You wouldn’t believe what is going on right now in the home sewing world! It would blow your mind! Who would have ever expected it to have become such a thing!” My heart goes out to young sewists today struggling to find their pace and style of sewing for themselves. Resisting temptation is like holding your hands up to an avalanche. I would say it’s a work in progress for most. The notion of finding your style heroine is a great one because anything that helps the sewist identify what she really does want to put in front of her for inspiration and direction will act like another pair of hands holding back the avalanche.
Hi Kathleen, that’s a nice perspective – to find a style heroine to help you with resisting temptation! But also recognising that what they wear wouldn’t quite look the same on you. Its so much easier to know what doesn’t suit you right? I have been dressing my adult body for about 15 years only but even in that time it has changed hugely, from my 20s student and post student years, to my wannabe grown up and professional years, and now somewhere in between. Today I’m wearing a blue and white striped midi dress (shirting weight and look) but it has mini pineapples embroidered (not by me) all over it. And I’ve worn it to the office with an avocado necklace, because its fun and I like that. And yes, social media should be fun and inspiring, not stressful! As for finding your own pace and style, this is a challenging one. As you know I’ve massively slowed my sewing down and this year I have added 2 summer items (both dresses). Being human, sometimes I think I should just give up and sew all the things, but that wouldn’t be in line with my sustainability ethos now would it?!
I always said Audrey Hepburn is my style hero, but I think what I actually admire is her simplicity and a clear idea of who she is, as reflected through clothes. So, I don’t aim to be a gamine size 0 woman from the ‘60, but I do aim for a clean, consistent, simplified and coherent style. Doing style exercises like the 10×10 capsules really helped me clarify that and helped me understand even more what I don’t want, to eliminate that from my life. And it helps me fight the temptation, as most of what’s out there just does not fit my style criteria.
Also a good perspective, to take what you want from looking at someone’s style and know what you are trying to say about yourself through clothes. You are pretty disciplined on you 10×10 wardrobe challenges, I’m sure it helps that you don’t like prints!!!
I’m definately a magpie here! I haven’t found my Ultimate Hero. There are sewists whose attitude I love…or whose figure matches mine..or who are moms of littles like me….or who are working professionals like me….or who wear the same color palatte as me…but no single sewist/designer/blogger is like me in every aspect. So there’s no one person I can point to and say, “I’ll sew whatever she’s sewing.”
Hi Jill, sounds like you are in the same boat as me. And I think you are so right, there is no person who is going to be exactly like you and no person who you would want to be a copy of! (and why would you?) It took me a long long time to get to that point of being ok with not following all the trends and giving up wearing all the clothes that don’t suit me – but were in trend. Its an evolving process though!
I love this conversation!
I don’t have a “style” hero other than me. Because it took me 1 year and 3 beautifully made tops to realize- What the heck am I sewing?” It wasn’t me. But it sure was cute, it sure was popular!
Now I do have my style figured out. No more impulse pattern purchases, no more cutesie print fabrics that I want to create with but not wear!!
However, I have Sew Heroes galore! I visit their blogs and drool over their sewing skills. Skills that I hadn’t need to learn until my body changed every year after every baby! Last baby at 47. These women teach me. (there’s too many of these talented women to name! :o) They are brave to share how their bodies needed pattern adjustments. They showed me no, you don’t need to sew 20 years to learn their tips and tricks.
There was no internet for us when I sewed at 14, and then for my children in 1977 on. My teens currently at home now benefit greatly from what my sew heroes taught me!! I am sewing my very own style in my size thanks to them!
Thank You to every woman who shares her skills. You never know how many Sewist lives you’ve touched!
Hi Elizabeth, your comment made me sigh with relief – its not just me! Whew. And the example about the tops – yeah – I know – I’ve been there too and given them all away. My new rule to keep the amount of stuff under control is that once I’ve decided to make something, if I can’t start it in the next two days then I’m not buying the fabric or additional supplies!
And yes, the notion of a style hero can be so different from a sewing hero, I like your interpretation a lot. I’ve done my fair share of googling for tutorials when I’ve gotten stuck, and been to a load of classes for help. Its great that sewing is back in vogue and that it can encourage people to find their own style and make things that they will want to wear, rather than being dictated by what the shops tell them they should be wearing.
I have interpreted a Sew Style Hero as someone we constantly look up to and are so inspired by their makes we want to copy them. I don’t hold anyone up to this regard. I am inspired by many sewists. But, I definitely have my own defined style and not everyone fits it. I’m inspired by everyone in different ways. I learn new things and find out about new patterns, fabric, notions, or events. I’m inspired by pattern changes, tutorials, techniques, and embellishments.
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Hello Susie, I think that was my interpretation too which is why I wrote this post. I think to a certain degree we are all inspired by everything we see around us and take different things from it. I do find it sometimes overwhelming I must admit, so then for me its a case of stepping back and mulling on things for a least a couple of weeks, to be sure that it is really what I want.
If I don’t mull on things for a bit, I impulse buy. I find I get enough satisfaction putting an item in my cart. Then, I’ll come back to it after a couple of weeks and if I still want it, I’ll buy it. I only purchase 40% of my impulses this way. It can be tempting to buy that new gadget, pattern, or fabric everyone else is getting or someone else is raving about. I know. But, we need time to think: “Do I already have something like this?” “How likely am I to use this?” “Do I have too much on my to-make list already?” “Do I have what I need for this or will I need to purchase more just for this I can’t use elsewhere?” ETC…..
Oh yes, the item in the cart. Recently I’ve been ordering fabric swatches. Satisfies the buy craving and by the time its arrived and I’ve thought about it, I”m not that interested anymore
I can definitely relate to this one– I always struggle in “define your style” type challenges when picking a style icon or two is required, because I can never think of anyone. I don’t really follow celebrities or their fashion senses at all, and while there are definitely sewists in the community whom I admire, their styles wouldn’t necessarily translate well to my figure or lifestyle. Maybe I should just say that my style hero is fabric, because I get most inspired by a good print!
Hi Becky, I love this – fabric as an inspiration! I think I am subconsciously influenced by fashion but by the time I have decided I like something and do something about it, it is probably a year later already…
What an excellent article! I am one who does tend to wear classic styles classics, simple, styles in more muted colors. Always have had that preference too. It’s interesting to me that the palettes that I use clothes and quilts are quite different. While I admire bright, striking, clothes on others, I would not feel comfortable wearing them.
I believe that our personal style ..even within what I call ‘classic’ lines….can and almost always does change over time…I think that our sense of personal styled d e v e l o p s …what we wear and love at 25 can/will be different than those that work at age 50.
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed reading it! Totally agree on the personal style change being in a constant state of flux, which can make the sustainability challenge for making things that will last quite difficult. I probably wouldn’t wear anything now I that I owned 10 years ago! Interesting that you’ve noticed a difference between your colours for wearing and colours for quilting. I guess with quilting its a piece of art so any colour goes!
Great read, Kate! I like the different moods that can be created by different clothes, but I don’t have a style icon per se, I’m more inspired by prints, styles, lines and details that suit my changing needs and wants. I came to the dressmaking scene late-ish, after I’ve got a good sense of my style and self image, so luckily I haven’t made the mistake I did earlier where I bought all the things (unluckily, that was with RTW, and other craft supplies). The issue I have isn’t things I make going out of trend, but that I love prints and prints are recognisable and after many wears (should aim for 30, right?) sometimes they feel “old”…Whereas timeless and classic styles in solid colours are great, it’s hard for a graphic-loving gal to go against her love of print and pattern. Still a dilemma for me!
Hi Sil, thanks for reading – and I completely understand getting bored with clothes. It is human nature I think to want novelty. Guess that’s why the creative challenge of a capsule wardrobe works for some people but harder for print lovers like me and you. I am quite ok these days with having lots of clothes because of this problem. As long as they get wear and I make an effort to wear all my seasonal wardrobe I don’t feel too guilt. Maybe just a little cluttered in the head 🤣