What we wear and how it fits

Ducky Barometer

Ducky Barometer

The last four days have all been over 40 degrees celsius. Yesterday I glanced at my little rubber duck. The little duck is purple and only turns orange in hot water. Apparently we were in hot water.

I tried to knit and I swear, the wool was hot. Not warm. Genuinely hot. I put the knitting away.

However, I was working away. My work at the moment involves research in fashion and reading a few blogs, I had some thoughts.

Style

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal style recently and was pleased to see a Coletterie post on the topic.

One of the things that makes me laugh is that current fashion reflects what I was wearing about a decade ago. Simple dresses in fun prints are popular now. This is the print on one of my favourite dresses from a decade ago.

Nothing but the toile

Nothing but the toile

And I’ve noticed that foxes are making a play for the status of the owl. This is my favourite skirt, embroidered by the clever fingers of my mother. It’s still a bit of a hit when I wear it.

Is that a fox?

Is that a fox?

I love wearing slightly quirky clothes. Okay, sometimes I like wearing slightly quirky clothes with other very quirky clothes! I was trying on shoes the other day and the assistant looked nervous: “This isn’t an insult. You dress quirky. I really like it.” I didn’t get offended. I was buying cute teal shoes and wearing a top with flamingos on it, topped off with a vintage, pink plastic bead necklace. It was quirky. I can own that.

Today I’d have – and do have – style icons like Zooey Deschanel and Penelope Garcia. Back in the day, I had Lily Lebowski from Crossing Jordan who put a bird on her skirt before it was hipster, and Ginger Rogers.

Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers

One of the problems, though, with the style that I love is that sometimes… well, people often insist you can’t wear it once you reach ‘a certain age.’ They also insist it’s too ‘girly,’ which is often code for ‘too silly and ridiculous.’ (I have issues with that – but that’s another story.) I’ve seen these comments made about Zooey Deschanel and I love her response.

Audrey Hepburn’s style is often lauded. Yes, she was very stylish (although she too liked the occasional silly outfit and bold print). It’s a simple style. But… I can’t really pull it off. It’s not comfortable to wear, either, since my body shape is rather different to Audrey Hepburn’s! Finally, it’s just too plain. I wouldn’t be able to resist jazzing it up with something quirky!

Which is why I loved this recent post “What if I don’t WANT to dress like a French Girl.”

Yes, minimalist chic is lovely… but it’s not me. My sense of humour gets the better of the ballet slippers and capri pants. And frankly, my legs don’t look as good in capri pants and I’m more comfortable on a short heel than in ballet slippers. (I always groan when I read those articles about how bad heels are – a good, well-constructed heel that suits your foot is comfortable and good for your feet. My feet hurt more wearing some ballet slippers.)

I often see friends share this poster. While in some ways I agree with it – it basically says you should wear whatever you like whatever your body shape or size – in other ways… the reality is, our body shapes do look better in some clothes than in other clothes. Adjustments can be made to most clothing styles, but knowing one’s body shape and understanding the styles one can easily wear is useful. I think you should be able to wear whatever you like, but knowing what flatters your body shape and what looks good on you can also be a positive thing.

Size

One of the great things about sites like Ravelry and independent designers is that we’re seeing more body shapes modelling the clothes, which gives us a better idea of how clothes will fit us. I used to get so frustrated knitting sweaters from magazines only to realise that what looked good on the size 2 model really didn’t suit my shape – not to mention realising that they must have pinned the back of the sweater to give it its waist shaping!

Once upon a time, there were no sizes. Ready-made was rare. Today we attempt to fit our bodies into sizes and all too often, it doesn’t work. Once upon a time, we knew more about having clothes made to our measurements and shapes and how to tweak fashions to suit our bodies.

We also understood that the illustrations of fashion weren’t representations of what the clothes looked like on most women – that we’d have to think through how the cut and drape would work on our own bodies. Early patterns didn’t come in sizes, either – skills in drafting would be required. Postures and poses also went through trends, designed around the fashions illustrated. Thus the 60s silhouette influences the bodies and poses of the women illustrated on the pattern envelopes. Gertie’s blog recently addressed this issue in a very sensible way.

The perfectly drawn body to show off a fashionable design

The perfectly drawn body to show off a fashionable design

I really think the use of illustration in fashion focussed attention on the fashion while the illustrated bodies were, frankly, fantasy. They were just a way to show off the fashion. Of course, women still felt pressure to look a certain way, but I do think there was less pressure for women to fit their bodies into a certain size.

I don't think many women ever had a waist THAT tiny

I don’t think many women ever had a waist THAT tiny

Today, part of the problem is that photoshop is turning the bodies of women into fantasy, but they’re still, in a sense, ‘real women.’ Where once you knew you couldn’t look like the illustrated body, today we’re encouraged to look like the photograph of the current fashionable or photoshopped body. Sizing is also unforgiving and confusing, because it simply can’t be consistent. Human bodies don’t have consistently the same measurements.

I’m really grateful that my mother sews and that she’s taught me how to sew and knit. Although I’ve had my issues, I’m also grateful that I’m learning not to worry about sizing and to just focus on how to adapt the clothes that I like to make the most of the body that I have.

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2 responses to “What we wear and how it fits

  1. Yes to all of this. One of the things I love about getting older is that I no longer feel beholden to “fashion” and dress more for me, my shape, and my style (whatever that is) and I care very little for what others think of the way I dress.

  2. Hear, hear!

    I keep looking over at my clothes and my pinterest board and going – “my style is my style” – there is nothing wrong with that. I like it.

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