Before my recent holiday I started a discussion about the casual/weekend/retirement wardrobe. And what interesting comments you made.
Annie mentioned that she likes to
“keep workwear and weekend wear separate as much as I can, a hangup from a ‘Sunday Best’ upbringing….When I’m home the first thing I do is change into joggers and tee shirt”.
My first tailoring tutor, who always wore exactly the same burnt orange “costume” (ladies two piece suit) every Wednesday for our class, said she always took off her bra and girdle and changed into her night wear as soon as she got home every night to save her smart, beautifully hand made garments from any unnecessary wear and tear.
That made me think. I have a strong internally conditioned view that being “smart” is socially required – to be taken seriously, to show respect, to fit in. I think the discussion about casual/off duty/weekend/retirement wear amongst people who sew (and therefore probably care more than the average about how they look) takes us into interesting territory and much of it is tied up with how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us.
Annie explains that when she goes out “I’ll wear a casual comfortable outfit that looks nice then, if I should happen to meet anyone I know, at least I look a bit different.” She admits she has been seen in her “manky” fleece jacket on walks, and cringes in embarrassment. But actually ones ability to go out in a manky fleece is perhaps more to do with our wardrobe personality. I could not bear to be seen in a fleece either. If my clothes don’t look right I feel awful all day and go home and change if I can. But then I am pretty much a classic dresser. A natural would be quite happy in the fleece.
Stephanie has a similar approach:
“On the weekends I usually throw on jeans or casual trousers and a buttoned shirt and handmade sweater if it’s cold… I have a weird thing in that if I dress neatly in good clothes as soon as I get up I feel I use the day more effectively than if I stay in sloppier lounge wear! I might be the only person who only wears tees to sleep or lounge in and grubby stuff for cleaning or painting. If I go out I throw on interesting shoes or short boots and a favourite coat.”
I know what you mean Stephanie. To me there is quite a difference between the first couple with their baggy neutral jackets, boring jeans and trainers. And the other two who are wearing lipstick, interesting accessories and they are also warm and comfortable. Maybe the muff is silly, maybe the bulky handbag is a drag. But you could replace the muff with fur gloves and the frame bag with a silver back pack or a colourful, embroidered shoulder bag and still look cool, interesting and practical.
Mary developed this idea:
Dresses are the most comfortable for me. In winter a dress, tights, and boots are easy and comfy and can be made to look smart with a scarf or jacket. Most of my winter dresses are made from wool or thick jersey. In summer I like loose dresses made in linen. I …feel most ‘me’ in a dress. I think all garment styles can be worn in a casual or formal way. Fabric and texture play a big part in delineating between the two. ..I like to look put together too when I go out.
There are lots of patterns that fit this type of life style – Sam suggested Australian company Style Arc had lots of options, and I think these are brilliant examples of comfortable, practical and simple shapes that depend on using nice fabrics and pairing with good accessories.
Now let’s hear from Hila, who also participated in Me Made May, and got thinking about what she wanted in her wardrobe.
I reached a similar realisation at analysing MMM – a lack of casual loungewear. I am thinking on how to address this as well so will be looking on for ideas. I love whipping jersey tops (+ dresses) in 30mins on the overlocker and I could easily exclusively wear jersey if it wasn’t for the fact that I love challenging techniques (read high achiever). Have you seen the Hudson pants – they look very comfy and could be dressy weekend wear in a really nice silk jersey.
Karen K makes a similar point, and one I am sympathetic to myself:
“I do love a good plain t shirt but they’re so boring to make.
I think they may be right that, again using very simple patterns (I could draft these myself quite quickly, although £7 seems a reasonable price), and maybe they are a bit more interesting than my Uniqlo standby (£12).
Annie tells me she ” aspires to Eileen Fisher separates and a cashmere cardi” so I had a look at their range. Using ethical fabrics and simple silhottes these ladies do look smart and relaxed, although the very limited colour palette (navy, white and beige) is a bit restricting.
Let’s sum it up. We like
- nice, luxurious, soft fabrics
- a mix and match somewhat pared down wardrobe
- a restricted palette most of the time, at least a good range of neutrals
- things we can whip up on an overlocker
we also like
- looking good
- looking well turned out
- sophisticated and classy (especially if we are older)
- being a bit different/creative and having fun
For myself there is something else. I like a good fit.
This can be achieved with stretchy, jersey fabrics, but it can also be constructed – through excellent fitting and the use of good underlinings, linings and interfacings. And this is where I differ from sewists who love their overlockers and yards of jersey. I feel wrong in sloppy clothes. I don’t know if it is a fear of showing the lumps and bumps or if it just feels like underwear. I think I like jersey when it clings and reveals, but there are not many areas of my body where I would be happy to show off my underlying shape (I don’t mind with tops too much). But if I want to disguise I think I would rather use a woven, even with a bit of Lycra in it, to create an optical illusion, rather than wear a baggy jersey top or lots of waterfall pleats/ruching etc.
The other thing that is very personal is that, like Hila and Karen, I like a challenging project. I prefer to take my time, to think things through, to think of a look or find a picture of exactly what I want. And then I will make it “from scratch” – a bit like a proper meal, rather than a take away or a ready meal. My interest in pattern cutting came about because I wanted a good fit. But more recently I admit I get a huge kick from seeing something, wondering how it is made, working it out, persevering with the fit and style, until I am happy with my efforts. Although I absolutely get why so many love the instant pleasure of making something today and wearing it tonight, I am not averse to spending a month on a garment.
Joyce, who wrote so nicely about individuality in retirement (she is an artist, sculptor and photographer), made a great suggestion:
Why don’t you make your weekend wear to suit your new house on the water front? Why not have this setting for your next collection? A wardrobe that suits the location and lifestyle – in your colours – the clothing in the vibe of your new home!
Joyce I love this idea. Thank you. I will have a go and let you know how I get on. Thank you.