Knowing Your Sense Of Style

There are many variables in sewing and knitting, but one constant that we’re expected to know and understand is our own sense of style.

I’m a skinny jeans girl – I’d never wear boyfriend jeans.

Red is my colour, but I can’t wear green.

I like my skirts to be on the knee, never below, never above.

I only wear vintage.

The trouble is, my sense of style tends to bob around on a changing tide of whim and whimsy. One week I want to wear skirts; the next I can’t drag myself out of jeans. I have a passionate affair with gathered skirts, then re-discover the flattering qualities of a pencil skirt. I reject a make, deciding I don’t like it any more, then months later remember how awesome it is. I see a pretty picture in another person’s blog post, and I want to be that person – in those clothes – NOW. And sometimes, yes sometimes, I’m a sucker for a trend. (See my animal print makes.)

Here’s the thing, though. I think there should be some fluidity. To swear that I will only ever more wear camel, grey, and navy? Isn’t that called a uniform? I’m not the same person now that I was at 16 and I won’t be the same person at 60. God knows what I’ll be wearing then! (No, seriously. I dread to think.)

I’ve seen my tastes expand massively since I started sewing. I’m so glad to have got past my horror of navy (school uniform). It’s liberating to experiment with a print that’s £2 a metre off the market, when I know I wouldn’t pay £25 for it on a top in a shop. I think my understanding of colour has really increased. I’m excited to think where my tastes will be in five years’ time!

Know your sense of style, or know which style you’ll try? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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51 Responses to Knowing Your Sense Of Style

  1. ooobop! says:

    I’m glad you brought this up. I used to feel a pressure every time someone referred to ‘their style’. It made me think I ought to have one. And I don’t really. I used to only wear black and white and grey but not because it was ‘my style’ moreover I couldn’t afford a lot of clothes and that way, everything I had coordinated! Sewing has been so rewarding in many ways but mostly to give me the opportunity to experiment and try new styles and colours. Maybe one day I will have a style… perhaps when I’m 60! But for now I’m enjoying the journey!

  2. makeitgiveit says:

    So with you. I am a chameleon in my styles and I change all the time BUT there are some things I do think I can confidently say never about – crushed velvet is not for me not that it isn’t for everyone but certainly not for me. I do love the way you write BTW

  3. little betty says:

    I totally understand. I love dresses, I make a stack of them, but then get stuck on the practicalities of jeans and trousers. I almost wish I could have one defined style, just to focus more with my sewing..

  4. Interesting! I think I do have a style, but I never stick to it. 🙂 And it keeps expanding to involve new things.
    There are things I’ll never wear, though – things I can safely say I’ll never wear simply because I would not be comfortable in them, and comfort is one thing that matters a lot to me in my clothing (it goes hand in hand with some degree of modesty; I would not feel comfortable in less). And things I know would not look good on me, because they would bring out the unseemly on me and suppress the nice. I think that’s what “your style” should be – bringing out the nice and suppressing the unseemly. The rest is a matter of what you currently feel the nice is. 🙂

  5. Roobeedoo says:

    I think life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to make choices about “style” – like if I had a uniform? But I expect that if I did I would feel the need to rebel against it! It’s just that sometimes I can’t be bothered thinking about what to wear, and making my own clothes increases the decision-making issue to a whole new level. So when it’s 7am and I haven’t washed my hair and I know I have to stop for petrol on the way to work, I need “the answer”, instantly, not the trauma of staring at my wardobe and realising nothing “goes” and that I am in danger of going to work looking like an explosion in a charity donation bin. I think if I was really clear about “my style” there would be “outfits” all lined up ready to go. I hope that Me Made May will help with this…

  6. yesilikethat says:

    I have a HUGE problem wearing brown and beige. At my school sixth form you could wear anything you liked as long it was somewhere along the brown spectrum (sounds like a horrible medical assessment tool). This has put me off wearing brown/camel/beige for life, but I’m trying to get over it. I have an amazing length of vintage crepe in brown that I just can’t visualise into a garment because of this mental block.

    • Ah, the mental and emotional torture of school uniforms…

    • Susan says:

      I have a block on navy skirts for the same reason!

      • Clio says:

        Navy and plaids of any stripe still make me cringe! After 12 years of a school uniform (aka fashion purgatory), it was wonderful to go to college and wear jeans every day. I’ve only recently rediscovered how much I like wearing skirts and dresses.

        Right now I definitely don’t have a fixed style. I’m enjoying playing with my style too much. Although, I have very strong feelings about color (orange, yes! beige and brown, no thank you.)

        Great post!

  7. Pingback: ME-Made-May 2012 | Mercury – Handmade Fashion

  8. mblow says:

    I found myself nodding while I read the first paragraph – you spoke my thought so well! Yesterday I sketched a dress that was sort of 1950’s vintage-esque, and two weeks ago I was so tired of seeing all of the vintage patterns. I get so excited about the possibilities when looking at clothes, patterns, and talented bloggers/sewers that I can’t move forward and pick something for myself. Then I have Roobeedoo’s problem, no outfits when I need or want them. Sigh …

  9. I a modern girl that like elegant and chic styles, with a fun, bold element. I like my clothes to stand out. For jewellery , i like romantic, small, delicate pieces. In general I love colour and will try any, even pastels which is not the best for my latin completion. I feel that as long that is a hint of blog colour near the face I’m happy. I love prints and hat to have a wardrobe full of beige clothes.

  10. amends: Blog= Block / hat= hate

  11. I had a lot of troubles with my style. I wanted to cover myself all and wore jeans and sweaters only. And this when I had an almost perfect body! Now I gained weght and age and I want a VERSATILE wardrobe and ONLY the clothes that I want, not what is in the store(that’s why I started to sew). The problem is, I can’t open ALL parts of my body NOW! Yeah! You can’t get it all, can you?

  12. mujerboricua says:

    I totally agree with everything you said. I find my fashion style is very fluid. One day I love solids and another day I love prints. I also love re-discovering the clothes in my closet that I abandoned, thinking they no longer suited me.

    I have to admit, now that I am older I like marching to my own drum. As a full figured woman I’m told I shouldn’t wear stripes or bold prints but I love them. Always have, always will.

  13. I don’t know what boyfriend jeans are but I’d be happy never to wear jeans of any sort ever again. In fact, I no longer own any and count as one of the happiest days of my existence the day I chucked my remaining jeans into the nearest charity bin. Ah, bliss. Awful, awful clothing. (Yes, I wore jeans plenty when I was young but I can’t say that I ever truly loved them. Uncomfortable, unflattering, inelegant – and they’re only work trousers, for heaven’s sake!)

    You make valid comments about colour. I’ve been thinking that, as we age and our complexions change, colours that once looked good on us no longer do. I’ve always loved bright colours and perhaps when I was younger (much younger!) I could have worn them IF I’d been careful about how and what sort of combination I used. Now they just make me look grey and washed out.

    But even my safe colours – the greens, blues and purples – can’t be just ANY green or blue or purple. One of the fun parts about making your own clothes is finding ways of wearing colours that perhaps you shouldn’t, because you can mix them or tone them down or put them in combinations that are dashing and daring but not disastrous. It’s all right to have a bit of fun. Fashion palettes change, too, so that the colours we like aren’t always available. Times like that we have to look for ways to wear what fashion says we should be wearing even though we know that fashion is wrong!

  14. PS: didn’t mean to sound dictatorial. If other people want to wear jeans, they’re very welcome to do so. 🙂

  15. prttynpnk says:

    I think that sewing has made my wear more fluid- the accessibility of ready mades that entice me is nil in my little hamlet. Sewing has made me more able to jump out of the style ledge, but if someone asked me my style, I’m probably going to blame my puritanical upbringing- if you don’t let the kid wear the tutu and cowboy boots, they may end up wearing them at 40. Cautionary tale, folks.

  16. Jennifer says:

    I’d say my “style” has expanded since I’ve started sewing as well. I used to stick to a sort of uniform – what I was taught to be “classic” – tailored looks in muted range of colors, very few prints. But, bright colors and prints are so much more fun to sew so, more and more of them are creeping into my wardrobe. I’ve never really been a slave to trends but, my rebellion looks quite different now. Though, it certainly has no definition. If someone more fashion-oriented were to browse my closet there would be a fair bit of “but, someone who wears these clothes would never wear that!”. Oh yes, I do! Sewing has helped me rule out styles too though. There are some silhouettes that just aren’t going to work for me and I know that now that I critique every little detail of an outfit.

  17. Robyn says:

    I was looking in my wardrobe the other day and realised what a profound influence blogging (both reading and writing) has had on my style. I’m much more likely to give something a go and I have a rainbow of colours instead of my old standby black and grey (although they’re still there too). The fact that I’ve sewn the majority of those items just increases my sense of delight.

  18. LinB says:

    I’ve mostly settled on an old-ladyish wardrobe of trousers and overblouses — functional for work, comfortable to wear, as flattering as possible. BUT: There are some wild colors in my closet, and some funkadelic pattern combinations. And there are lots of kinds of trousers and slacks, and lots of kinds of overblouses. I like to have a standard silhouette on which I may make infinite variations. I also like to listen to Philip Glass music.

  19. Sarah says:

    I’m a high waist girl, never a low-rise will I wear.
    I love red and pink, but would never wear school uniform navy.
    I love my skirts knee or tea length, but never, ever above the knee.
    I wear prints on top and solids on the bottom to flatter my pear shaped body.
    Hot pink is a neutral.
    I prefer pull over blouses and tops over button-front.
    I love romantic and vintage styles, but never will revisit the 80’s – too many scary fashions from my youth! LOL!

  20. Andrea says:

    The other day my neighbor asked me if I liked the band She & Him (made up of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward). I kinda shrugged and said sure. Then she said, “Yeah, you dress like the kind of person who would like She & Him.” I’ve been trying to analyze that statement ever since! Maybe it was a compliment, because most people would agree that Zooey Deschanel has a fine wardrobe. Or was she making fun of me for all the fit-and-flare dresses I wear to the most casual of gatherings? On this particular day (like most days), I was wearing a belted dress and everyone else was wearing t-shirts. Maybe she meant something else entirely. Anyway, now that I sew my own clothes and take pictures of myself in them, I’m much more aware of my body type and what looks good on me. Because of this, my style has evolved significantly since high school and college. I have a more feminine wardrobe now but I feel more confident than ever (except when someone makes a generalization about the “kind of person” I am based on what I’m wearing!)

  21. Susan says:

    I hate to tell you, but(whispers) I’m almost 60, and I still am struggling with style. Also at different stages of your life you have completely different requirements for your clothes. I used to be in corporate life, surrounded by men in grey suits, and tried to blend in. Now, most of my time outside the home I spend with women, and can be as feminine in my dress as I want.

    • You know, after I wrote that, Susan, I thought, ‘Before I know it, I’ll be 60 and wondering what I’ll be wearing at 80!’ Good point about the different stages of life. I’m very lucky that my professional life only sometimes needs me to dress smart.

  22. Colour wise, I just like wearing what makes me happy. Cool colours mostly, purple most definitely, a fair amount of blue-reds (not orange reds). Green looks good on others and maybe it looks good on me but it doesn’t make me happy and never has. Teal is about as close as I’ll get to green.

    Style wise… I do try to incorporate the odd thing that feels “out there” to me. I have one pair of leggings and I’m still not sure what to do with them but I keep trying. I like them on other people, they seem to be comfortable.. but it is clear they don’t really fit with the rest of my clothing.

    I don’t feel I have a single style. I have a look for work maybe, I like skirts on the weekend but not to the point where pants are the exception, I have clothing for camping and hiking that are about function not style. It would actually be an interesting question to ask others because they will see the common threads more so than I would.

  23. Meris says:

    This post (and the related comments) could not have been better timed. I am slowly transistioning into making (and thrifting) my wardrobe. But before I begin choosing patterns or fabrics, I am trying to inventory my current wardrobe and assess the “style personality” of my clothes.
    I have noticed that my closet has a number of garments that I bought because I either liked the color or I wanted to try a new trendy style…and they don’t match anything else in my closet and thus go unworn. I don’t want to do the same with clothes I sew or knit.
    I want to make sure that I want to wear all the clothes I make and own; and I want to have lots of interchangeability. I haven’t had that “ah-ha” moment yet. I still don’t quite know how to dig into the psychology of my clothes. 🙂

    It is great to read all of your thoughts!

  24. beebeesvintagedress says:

    I’ve done a lot of posts on this recently. The one thing I could not live without? COLOUR! I had far too much black, then went too far the other way with everything in colour. I think when your trying out different styles its always important to remember balance. I would hate to have a kind of uniform but I love the idea of capsule wardrobes… All I know is sewing is a totally fab way to experiment with your style!
    Fab post Karen x

  25. Erika says:

    This is a very interesting discussion indeed! My first thought was that ‘style’ is something the market has created to make us more insecure so that we can continue to buy new things in search of our style. Here in Sweden, for example, people are extremely afraid of standing out of the crowd, resulting in everyone looking very much the same, following the same trends or dressing according to culture/subculture. You very rarely see people with individual “style”.

    Anyway, I think most people have that ambivalence with clothes that so many has described here. Most people are versatile, under constant change and shift taste and mood. So isn’t it nice to have a way of expressing this without talking about it (thinking about your Greta Garbo post, Karen). Why exclude that side of you that makes you want to wear boyfriend jeans or bermuda shorts, even if it’s more rarely? Why is it so important to find yourself, express yourself, pin yourself down to one type, one personality?

    So this wonderful thing happens when you start sewing: suddenly you get loads of liberty to choose what you would like to wear. A small and narrow thinking business isn’t dictating your wardrobe from what they make available in the shops in terms of colour, fitting and shape.

    All these choices tend to make at least me even more ambivalent! Because in the end there also has to be some read thread in it, it has to make some kind of sense. It has to have some sense of… style! ;-D

  26. roundel says:

    I will be 60 this year and find that deciding what style I am is harder now than ever.

    I find I chose my style according to role – neat and clean for work, scruffy and comfortable for home crafting, even scruffier for gardening, colourful for gran times, jeans a lot with friends.

    My real problem is what on earth to wear when I actually would like to look ‘nice’. Mary Portas got to so wrong on recent programme and tried to dress all women as if they were her size and shape which they are not. I have gone up 2 sizes since I hit 50.

    I found this post as I am researching patterns to try. Taking up sewing again after a gap of almost 30 years I now plan to try make my own clothes again through not being able to find (or afford) what I want in shops. Blogs like yours are inspirational – thanks!

  27. Kelly says:

    My fear is that my style might best be described as dowdy. And I can’t put my finger on exactly why that is… I’m in jeans, a white tee shirt, and a coral linen blazer today. I have funky coral and pink floral Dansko sneakers on. That’s not dowdy. I own and wear leggings. I love bright colors, mostly red, pink, orange, coral. Never ever yellow or green; they look awful on my skin. But when I look in the mirror or compare myself to the twenty-somethings in the hall at work, I think “dowdy.”

  28. Hannah Jean says:

    As a young person I find my style changes and evolves so quickly that it’s tempting to not become too invested in any of it. A year ago I was addicted to super fitted sheaths with enough length, and now I don’t mind a blousy top and a pair of short shorts with tights. I prefer to think of style as an artform and a display. If the art I make changes, at least it’s still beautiful!

  29. symondezyn says:

    I have struggled all my life to identify exactly what my style is. It wasn’t til I started sewing that I was able to investigate my body with a more educated eye, and discover why certain styles never suited me and why I’m drawn to particular things over and over. I too am inspired by things I see other people make, or new patterns, even if they’re not exactly ‘me’ – but I know I can MAKE them suit me, which is an amazing gift: one that’s not available to those trapped by the RTW prison 🙂

    I’ve come to realize it’s OK to like certain things, and not be drawn to others – I always thought in order to be stylish I had to like certain things and follow trends. Now I know that it’s OK that I prefer solid colours, classic shapes, and timeless styles – I know what I can and can’t get away with too, and that’s a huge bonus 😉

    I think it’s totally OK to know what suits you and to wear what feels like “you” – just as it’s totally OK to have zones of your style which are malleable, such as variations on colour or pattern, or garment style 🙂 That being said, it’s TOTALLY ok to change your mind on what you like, and frequently, too – we ARE women after all! 😉

  30. Wendy says:

    While I have realised since I started sewing, that my wardrobe is not very cohesive in terms of a particular style, it has at least let me try new styles and moved me away from the ‘Mum uniform’ of jeans and tshirts. I have made dresses I love, and have made work for my lifestyle, and all the pretty tops …. they allow me to feel just a bit special when I’m surrounded by toys and jam covered faces!

  31. Sherry says:

    I think I’ve given up on style! I find the idea of seeking a personal style restrictive, and when I do think I’ve found one I quickly become tired of it! It is easy to result in a uniform as you mention (which is probably OK for a lot of workplaces) or cliched looks (I think this is a problem with a lot of vintage and subculture looks), or looking like others (eg buying a trenchcoat because stylists say everyone needs one, and next minute everyone has one!).

    I find I tend to focus on individual items, rather than an overall look. I don’t worry too much whether a silhouette or colour suits me anymore, and just wear what I like (although there are things I no longer wear, like mini’s!). My full-skirted dresses make me look fatter, but so what – exactly why must I try to look slimmer? They feel nice and make me happy! What more does one want?!

  32. leahfranqui says:

    Well, I think I know my uniform in terms of shape, but not in terms of color and style. Like, nothing with a drop waist will ever look okay on me, so regardless of it’s vintage or modern origins, I’m not wearing that. Anything that works with my natural waist? Lovely. I do think in terms of silhouette, because I want to feel attractive, but in terms of color, anything goes. Though I will say, I wouldn’t wear it if I didn’t think the color worked for me. Mustard and I are not friends. So my style is about my body, but not about genre or period.

  33. MrsC says:

    Karen, the personal rules of which you speak are not a sense of style. They are rules, and my goodness don’t we love to impose them upon ourselves! No, style is about self expression. It should carry you through any situation – work, play, formal, without any mental angst. Because style transcends hem lengths and colours. The way I advise my clients (OK and anyone else who will listen!) to start to understand their sense of style is to come up with 2-3 words that capture how they want to FEEL in their clothes. Words like classic and retro don’t count as they describe the clothes. Words like pretty, edgy, romantic, quirky, funky and beautiful are all good examples because they are about your experience of yourself. When you are clear about that, then you can start using those words to audition ideas. Will this skirt make me feel quirky? is so much more self affirming than “will this skirt make my butt look big?”
    Having a clear sense of actual style and not just a list of rules based on past experiences (mothers often feature in these rules when they are examined closely) gives you so much more scope for expression! THEN you can invite the occasional rule to play a walk on part. Nothing mroe than Dinner is Served type of thing, but it makes them feel a part of it all and cams them down.
    Not sure how I got onto theatre metaphors there but hope this makes sense. I wrote an article about it once but no idea if it is still online. Will go hunt it down.

  34. grenouille78 says:

    It’s a good question. I’ve been tying to boil it down to one common denominator lately because I’m having a hard time determining what it is that attracts me to certain looks. A little style schizophrenia, if you will. Bohemian, Regency, Dior’s New Look, Baroque… I suppose there’s a surfeit of femininity in each of those. Maybe that’s the link: if it’s foofy or ruffly, it’s me. I don’t even have to look at my bin of fabric to know that it’s predominately greens and blues. Some black. I hate wearing red because it makes my face look flushed (not a healthy, youthful glow; more like a haggard sunburnt kind of flush), so I always end up defaulting to the greens and blues. Some day, if I’m feeling really crazy, I might try purple.

  35. Jacqueline says:

    Black trousers, coloured top usually. Don’t wear dresses – ever, don’t wear skirts, don’t wear brown, yellow, orange or green. No particular style, I think, just clothes that fit OK, and hide the overly lumpy bits

  36. nothy lane says:

    I think that I have always just worn the clothes I had. Like the commenter above, I looked for presentable, fitting and covered. It was a money issue as much as anything. Now that I have a career and a bit more breathing room financially, I am thinking more and more about the image I want to project. Also, from sewing blogs and thrifting blogs, I’ve learned that style can be affordable. (I wish I realized that earlier!!!) I prefer basics with a little splash of colour. I like jeans and t-shirts, basic skirts and blouses. I am learning to wear more dresses because they flatter me and because I have a lot of dress patterns. I am also learning that i love natural fabrics – cottons, linens and wool. (I may even try silk but I don’t own any at the moment.) So yes, I am trying new things but they are also an extension of what I already have…

  37. Mallory says:

    Personally, I make my choices by thinking about characters I’d like to be, so dressing up is kind of a costume thing for me. That way I can look like a femme fatale, lolita, lady-like, hippie (not so much, a little hippie), and that gives some variety to my life. Maybe there are big NO’s that everybody states in the kingdom of their wardrobe, but that rules don’t last forever. I used to wear jeans everyday ten years ago but I hate them now. Whenever I have to wear pants-like-stuff (I hate it, too) I wear formal pants, harem pants or leggins. I’m angry right now just for remembering friends of mine that wear jeans every-single-time-we-meet haha it’s pathological.

  38. This is fascinating. Great post!

    I also found that seeing my own clothes made me more willing to try out styles I wouldn’t previously have considered. But of late my style’s settled down quite a lot. I think I’ve realised what I feel most comfortable in. Sewing has been a big part of that, but blogging even more so. By taking pictures and getting feedback from other people I found out some surprising things about what works and what doesn’t.

  39. rehanon says:

    Such a good post and so interesting to hear everybody’s take on style. I thought many times I’d hit on who Rehanon was but it took hitting 30 to realise that some days I’m a high tops and a hoodie kinda gal and others it’s a wiggle dress and a beehive but always with big gold earrings 🙂 Learning to sew actually made me feel better about the whole ageing process because I’ve always had quite a loud style I always wondered what I’d wear as I got older. Now I sew I’m like well I’ll knock up whatever and won’t have to hit up Bon Marche at all. Obviously if that’s your thing then that’s fine but it just doesn’t happen to be mine. I fully intend to age disgracefully and will probably dress like Auntie Mame in red velvet and faux fur until I’m in my box.

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  41. Carolyn says:

    you are so right, our tastes change and evolve as we get older, and as new fashions come into play. I think I’m a bit of a mixed bag; sometimes I would love to have a definite sense of “my style” but then I think I love fashion too much to restrict myself to just one look, or even a few!
    Thank you so much for your sweet comment on my pj’s! I am looking forward to the final reveal of your adorable floral set!

  42. Amy says:

    I love this post and it made me laugh at myself, because at one time or another I’ve declared those sort of things. My husband likes to tell me often that I often find what I like by announcing quite loudly what I won’t like or do. I can’t help it, I’m an idealist. But some of that has worn off with experience, because I just keep eating my words. I find that my style is very fluid, too. It just goes with what I am fascinated with or thinking about at the moment. Even the act of defining style has had a different paradigm at different ages–in my teens and 20s, I had to keep saying who I was, to remind myself of who I was. Dress myself in order to discover or recognize myself, so to speak. Now that I’m in my 40s, thinking about style feels like it moves more from the inside out.

    I love how sewing has definitely helped me branch out into trying things for the sake of trying, and especially think more clearly about silhouettes rather than single pieces. Anyhoos, wonderful conversation!

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