Notionally Speaking: Style

It's time for this month's instalment of Notionally Speaking where a blogger picks a sewing related word at random from a predefined list and writes a post inspired by that word. Style is always personal and can be a sensitive subject - you either feel you know yours or are trying to find it.

Please welcome Jen from Tea for Two as she takes you through what it means to her. 

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Style. What does it mean to you? To me it's quite a loaded word. I feel like it should be totally subjective. We decide what is stylish, right? According to our own tastes, our own preferences. And yet the media is constantly telling us about trends, who looks good this week, who looks bad; what is in style. 

So I prefer not to think about that side of it, and instead to think of it as a very personal notion. It’s what catches my eye right now, what inspires me, and what I strive for, both in terms of what I wear and my sartorial mood. And boy does that change a lot.

The word style may mean something totally different to you. And that's fine. It has a lot of meanings. I'm going to talk about MY style – and I hope it entertains you for just a few minutes and that you forgive my narcissism. After all, we should write about what we know, right?

My style has changed A LOT in just the past 10 years - my twenties. Of course it has. In that time I’ve been a university student, I started the world of work, I moved to our nation’s capital, and I got married. And this year I turned 30. It’s only these last few years really that I’ve started to feel confident in dressing for my style.

So indulge me while we take a visual tour of my style over the last decade… At the very least, I’m sure we’ll have a bit of a giggle.

(By the way, anything I go 'blergh' at in these photos is in no way meant to offend anyone who does like that kind of style. It's just my personal preference at the moment, and I'm mostly just being very self-critical!)

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1. June 2005 – 21 years old. Just before third year of university, just back from a holiday with friends and Josh to the south of France. Back then I was definitely keen on the vest-under t-shirt look, as seen here. Also, those shorts – WTF? This all feels like far too scruffy a look for me now.

2. April 2006 – 22 years old. A night out during third year of uni. Ignore the wig. Yes, I wore cardigan on a night out. I had the usual chub of a uni student and looking back I don’t feel like I dressed well for it. I was also very keen on wearing a belt round my hips, as in this photo. Very noughties.

3. May 2006 – 22 years old. Another uni night out. Trying to be sexy? Coming off as sweaty. Note the vest under vest AND the belt round the hips. Oh yes! I was clearly lacking in imagination. I also owned A LOT of black tops.

4. July 2006 – 22 years old. Just finished uni, on a canal holiday! University hoodie was a must. I don’t wear hoodies anymore, they feel too bulky and too casual for most of the time.

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5. June 2007 – 23 years old. At my aunt’s wedding. Blonde! I think we can all agree this was not such a good look for me. I also cringe when I look at the style of my dress – not flattering for my shape at the time; too empire line and not fitted enough around the waist.

6. October 2007 – 23 years old. On holiday in Sorrento. I think this isn’t bad, but not surprised to see an unimaginative black top, but then they are pretty good as a basic. The blonde is still there (WHY???).

7. January 2008 – just before my 24th birthday. On a work trip to Nice. Again, prolific use of black, and I obviously didn’t notice at the time how much extra bulk that cardigan added to the tops of my arms – big mistake! Also still wearing bootcut jeans – not my style anymore!

8. September 2009 – 25 years old. On holiday with ‘Lena in Barcelona. Haha, white bootcut jeans. Enough said.

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9. As pic 8, on that same holiday. Again, my style has veered away from the leggings with dresses style (not that there’s anything wrong with it) – it just shows me how much my preferred style has changed.

10. May 2010 – 26 years old. On holiday in Cornwall. The blonde has gone! I finally saw the error of my ways. I don’t hate what I’m wearing here, I just know for some reason I wouldn’t look twice at it these days in a shop. And the headband? So not a good look for me!

11. October 2010 - 26 years old – on my way to Amsterdam with friends. Ahh, jeans tucked into boots – I still do that and actually really like it. The long blazer is also a style I’m still keen on. Starting to feel more comfortable exploring my style here, as I’d lost quite a bit of weight.

12. June 2011 – 27 years old. Loving the short hairstyle here and was v happy with my size, hence the short short skirt! Also shows how I was keen to start wearing more colour and interesting prints, and just generally be a bit more adventurous with those.

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13. August 2012 – 28 years old. On my minimoon (sorry) in Whitstable. Demonstrates my current fave style of skirts sitting on the waist, with tops tucked in.

14. May 2013 – 29 years old. On honeymoon! In Yosemite National Park. One of my favourite summer vintage dresses. A few years ago I started buying vintage clothing and fell in love.

15. September 2013 – 29 years old. In my Elisalex dress at a wedding. Starting to make my own clothes at the start of 2013 has also really made me think carefully about my style. I love the Elisalex and think it went perfectly with this vintage hat/fascinator.

16. May 2014 – 30 years old! In one of my most recent favourite vintage dresses. I love the unusual prints you get on vintage clothing, and the knowledge that you’re wearing something no-one else will have on.

So that’s a little round-up of just a snippet of my style evolution! Thanks for indulging. It’s made me realise how quickly things go in and out of favour with me, but also how my style tends to directly relate to my current shape and size. Is that the same with anyone else? When I was a bit larger I think I didn’t really want to make a statement with clothes, but I also didn’t have the confidence.

I’m now really enjoying have a little bit of individuality. I like nipped-in waists, high-waisted jeans and vintage styles (both actual vintage and vintage-inspired). Sure, there are still plenty of days when I’ll throw on any old thing, but more and more I’m having fun with fashion, and not letting fashion magazines or high street shops dictate what I wear.

So tell me, what does ‘style’ mean to you guys? I really wanna know!

Thanks so much to Claire for letting me wax lyrical – I really enjoyed it!

Jen x

Me Made May: What I learnt

While last year’s Me Made May was great fun, this year I came to appreciate just how useful it can be. I started off the month pledging to wear every item that I had made - that’s one, maybe two, per day. I hoped that the month would provide me with an understanding of why I return time and again to some of my makes and why others have hardly been worn since completion. Perhaps it would offer a suggestion on my style, colours and what is missing from my wardrobe. I’m sorry that I have used old photos to break up the text, I just couldn’t keep up with daily photos when I needed to record how I felt about each item every evening.

Style and colours

I have a couple of preferred silhouettes. I feel at my best when my clothes nip in at my waist and flare out a little below it. My tummy is my weak spot, it is about the only part of my body that I have a bad relationship with. It is not unusual for me to bloat, sometimes by a couple of inches in a couple of hours, and as a result I don’t like bringing attention to my waistline. Having a more fitted look with some flare above or below distracts from my waist. This is why my CeylonWinifredMaeMietteCamis and Robson are in constant rotation. I also like the fitted pencil skirt shape and my Emery is getting a reasonable amount of wear because of this. I've also rediscovered my pencil skirt. I generally prefer my dress and skirts to finish at my knees but there are some noticeable exceptions. 

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However, I can also pull off the loose look when I feel that nipped in is too much hassle or just damn uncomfortable (which it can be at times) and turn to my Lace LaurelTovaAlma blouses and Victoria Blazer. This latter look is one that I find very difficult to work with though - more often than not I feel like I am wearing a rectangle rather than an item of clothing!

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Colour has always been interesting for me and was one of the key points in my challenge last year. I seem to be honing in on my preferred colours: practically every shade of blue and pink, deep and bright purples, and different shades of green, especially teal. Green continues to be the biggest surprise. For some reason I used to really dislike it and wouldn’t go anywhere near the colour - now it seems to be one of my most bought! 

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I’m not sure what has changed but I feel much more confident and happy wearing all the shades of green (except lime - I can’t pull off lime!) and this is reflected in my recent finished items - the Green Mae, Lace Laurel, Emery and Robson Coat. However, I do find it hard to style green at times. I have a light green skirt that needs some friends - trouble is I don’t really know what to put with it! I have an interesting relationship with neutrals. Black and white feature but mainly because they have to while grey and brown are practically none existent.

Sewing for my lifestyle

How many of you stand in front of your wardrobe every morning and say “I’ve got nothing to wear!”? I do quite often and I’ve realised that this simply isn’t true for autumn, winter and a cool spring. By focusing on the me-made part of my wardrobe I coped very well this month and even tried new to me combinations. It turns out that I do have items perfectly suited to the office and playtime. If I add in my RTW items then I shouldn’t ever find myself uttering those words again during these months. However, I wouldn’t say that I was happy with all of them and this makes all the difference. There is a noticeable difference between my earlier makes and the more recent ones. I made a few mistakes with my fabric choice and the finish on some items isn’t as good as it should be. 

I really dislike my Laurel dress (strong words there but it was the only item I couldn’t take off the hanger!), I don’t really like my white and pink Sorbetto due to the poor neckline finishing and the piling fabric, my Jasmine blouse pulls in an odd direction (I think I may have cut it wrong) and the neckline of my chiffon blouse makes me self-conscious as its poorly finished. I’ve yet to decide the fate of these items.

The few days of warm weather were very welcome earlier this month but they revealed a massive hole in my wardrobe. I have practically nothing that is suitable for summer to wear to the office - everything is too thick, the fabrics too warm or the colours remind me of winter. I have a few plans to correct this, mainly focussing on creating some staple tops and summer skirts, but as ever, it is finding enough time to complete them.

I’ve learnt a lot this month. I feel that I now have a very good sense of what I like to wear and this should make the decision on whether to buy a pattern or a fabric easier. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment without really thinking about whether you will *actually* wear the item and I have been guilty of this in the past. If the pattern or the fabric doesn’t fit the above then I will need to think twice about buying.

Your turn, have any of you found Me Made May to be as useful as I have?