My First Mabel

Recently, I’ve found myself thinking about how much sewing has changed my attitude toward clothes and what I feel good wearing. The most obvious difference has been a major shift in my preference for fewer, higher quality clothes in my closet. Gone are the days when I would wander absently into H & M and want to buy all the things. Now, between the poor fit and flimsy fabrics, most of those things look unwearable.

Equally, it makes a lot less sense to settle for something that’s kind of what you want, when you know you have the skills to make exactly what you want. I credit this sewing perk for my expanding interest in skirts and dresses. When shopping ready to wear I typically find them cut too short for my tastes, or that there’s too many details, weird fabric, not enough pockets, etc. etc. etc. With fewer variables to contend with, I just found jeans easier. But (sewing discovery!) skirts and dresses can be waaay more comfortable than jeans when they’ve been made to order for and my me!

colette-mabel-sewstylist-pic1.jpgWord on the street is Colette’s Mabel skirt  is just as comfortable as pjs, yet it looks a whole lot better walking down the street. (Well, maybe not better looking than these.) The rumors are true. This skirt is super comfy, cozy, and easy to wear.

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I started with the pencil skirt version, then added about four more inches to the length so the skirt could be a bit high-waisted and still hit below my knees. Some might find this length a little dowdy, but it’s what’s most comfortable for me. I like the long line it makes.

I’ve wanted to try this pattern since it came out, and when I was able to get it 20% off (applying the awesome discount I get after my Bay Area Sewists Meetup) I jumped at the chance to give it a go. True, it is a pretty simple pattern, but the time I got to spend sewing instead of drafting was worth it. The fit is good and there’s some thoughtful details. I would not have approached the waistband the same way, and the proportions of the center placket on the pencil skirt are so, so flattering.

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The fabric I used is a great mid-weight ponte with a sort of space dyed finish to it. Very cool to look at, but also very difficult to photograph! Nevertheless, it was kind of the perfect fabric for this project. It’s sturdy enough that I don’t have to worry about panty lines, but still stretchy enough that this skirt is a breeze to wear and walk in.

You can almost see in the pics above that I played with the direction of the fabric. The lines go up and down on the front side panels and the two back pieces, but I placed them horizontally across the center placket. This creates nice visual interest and is slimming, not that slimming is my first concern but , hey, can’t hurt!

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I cut a straight medium, even though the numbers said I was a small at the waist. As a result, in addition to lengthening the skirt I took about four inches off the waistband, and about a three inch wedge out of center back. The wedge helps accommodate my sway back, and I think I needed more off the waistband because I wanted it to ride a little high. These adjustments were easy to make on the fly, and the whole project was quick and fun to put together.

This skirt is such a basic, wearable shape, and the pattern has tons of possibilities. I definitely plan to return to it. Here’s a few images I pinned to inspire my next Mabel.

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One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

I love the idea of taking the #invisiblepajamas aspect of this skirt one step further by making it up in fleece. Also, what if you left off the back vent in favor of a slit up the front? Adding a peplum to this skirt would be super easy and create a totally different look. I definitely plan to make a little black Mabel. And what about that contrasting fabric? Nice, right? If you’d have told me in the years before I started sewing that I’d want an entire wardrobe of jersey skirts I probably would have laughed accommodatingly while secretly thinking you were nuts. But look at me now!

So, I’m curious, are there any types of garments that you’re more likely to wear if you’ve sewn them yourself? What makes your me made version better than the RTW offerings?

thinking about my core style

wardrobecollage3wardrobecollage2Over at the Coletterie Sarai has been hosting a project she’s calling: Wardrobe Architect. The idea is to put some time and thought into designing a wardrobe that suits and services the person you truly are. You can learn more about the project here. I love thinking and talking about clothes, so of course I was excited when this launched! While I certainly consider myself to be someone with a distinctive vision for how I want to present myself to the world, it’s also true that I have at times (honestly: many, many times) made wardrobe choices that were more inspired by whim than by some deep sense of what works best for my personality and lifestyle. The way we present ourselves to the world has the power to inform and influence the way we are perceived, and as I get older I feel an ever increasing desire to have more focus and intention around all this. Not so much because I find myself caring more about what people think about me, but because I have a stronger sense of myself and I want to support and communicate that. It is my hope that working through some of the exercises Sarai has created for the Wardrobe Architect project will help me pursue this, and I thought sharing what I come up with here would be fun.

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This week I’m using this worksheet for exercise 2: Uncover the styles that make you feel like yourself and attach words and images to them.

When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy,
poised, powerful, etc)?

My favorite clothes make me feel feminine, womanly, at ease, individual, warm enough (this is huge for me!), sensual, interesting, maybe a little romantic, and definitely a little tough, or you know: bad-ass. If I’ve got all that going for me then I’m sure to feel confident too. Feeling sexy for me is about feeling all of these other things…I can’t say it’s a feeling on it’s own; it’s the sum of the good-feelings equation.

When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the
feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

The first word that comes to mind is fussy. I don’t want to have to tug, pull at, or mess around with my clothes too much. I want my clothes to work with me, not the other way around. I also don’t care for clothes that look or feel sweet, boring, sloppy, predictable, constrained, or itchy.

“I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” -Gilda Radner

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Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

This is a tricky one because most of the women whose fashion sense I admire I wouldn’t necessarily like to model myself after. I’m also a total fashion nerd, so I feel as if I could (and maybe should…) write an entire post for each of the many, many women who dress themselves in a way I find inspiring. Instead I pulled images of the women below not because I want to dress like them, but because I want to feel how they appear to feel in their skin…

When I was growing up I thought Lisa Bonet’s natural, bohemian style was the epitome of cool and sexy, still do.

While it’s hard for me to speak to a distinctive style that belongs to Diana Ross, I can easily recognize the style that is Diana Ross, and this picture embodies all that I love about it: confident, unexpectedly glamourous, soulful, and damn sexy.

Everything about Lupita Nyong’o is gorgeous. It’s undeniable, and that is revolutionary. I like my style with a side of subtle subversion.

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Sure, maybe Cher has gotten a little strange over the years, but whenever I see photos of her in the 70’s I’m like: Yes! The epic hair, the even more epic nails, the high waisted jeans, it all speaks of a feminine fierceness I can get behind.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s life and art are an inspiration. Looking at her in this image only confirms what we know already: This woman was earthy and intelligent, creative and talented, and she lived life her way. I’d wear that.

Meryl Streep is outrageously gorgeous in a way that is totally her own. She seems completely at home in her own skin, and this makes her sexy in a way that speaks of intelligence and dynamism.

Debbie Harry embodies the bad-ass, rock & roll, lady-chic vibe that I love. I’d like to feel as cool as she looks in this photo everyday.

Angelica Houston is another smart, sexy, womanly-woman who has redefined what it means to be feminine and beautiful by imbuing it with something mysterious, unexpected, and uniquely her own.

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What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

I am seriously drawn to drama, and while I imagine I’m willing to go a bit more dramatic than many, at the end of the day I feel most comfortable when people see me before me clothes. I’m also discovering that I’m not as into colorful clothing as I’d hoped I could be.

Thinking about words the do describe my style yields:

Comfy

Luxurious

Easy-going

Modern

Timeless

Interesting

Thoughtful

Livable

Earthy

Warm

Sensual

Touchable

Inviting

Special

Edgy

Uncomplicated

Sophisticated

Unexpected

Intriguing

Rugged

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And if I were forced to narrow this list down… I’d go with: 

Uncomplicated

Interesting

Timeless

Sensual

Edgy

The pics I pulled for this post embody what all that means to me. Have you checked out the Wardrobe Architect project or spent much time thinking about how you would define your core style?

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