As I've got older I know exactly the shapes and look I want to create that make me feel confident and happy. Whenever I wear something uncomfortable or that doesn't suit my mood I have an overwhelming urge to hide. That's not to say I scream look at me, but at 6ft you just tend to get noticed quite a bit, so feeling confident in myself helps a lot. I can honestly say since I lost a bit of weight caused by stress at the end of my second marriage I have not had a day when I've not been happy in my clothes. I've found what I like to wear and I'm lucky enough to be able to make it for myself so that it actually fits.
In this post I want to share with you an amazing pattern that I've utterly fallen in love with for many reasons and to take part in #smyly2018 which means "sewing makes you love yourself". The challenge is focused on the benefits of body positivity and mental health through sewing and is hosted by instagrammers @hattie_van_der_krohn, @lisakisch and @athinakakou.
I've always been drawn to designs and shapes from the 1930's to the 1950's, but the fifties are my favourite for shapes and fabric designs truth be told. I've never wanted to dress totally period, I prefer to mix it up in a way that suits all of my tastes. It's the fun and flirty shapes of the 1950's that are my favourite. As a teenager I'd wear full skirts with fitted jackets picked up from secondhand shops (life pre the days of it being called vintage). From fitted wiggle dresses and skirts to colourful little cardigans thrown over the top is my favourite look as I've got older, but I do wear a fuller frock for those days I feel a bit girly.
A few years back when my girls were younger I slowly put on weight. Not a lot, but enough to make me not want to draw attention to my waist and tummy as I felt self-conscious about it. I still wore things I made and liked, but not 100% liked or felt totally relaxed and confident in. I never changed my love of wearing vintage and colourful printed clothes even when I stood in the playground. I guess what I'm saying is that I didn't try to fit in by not standing out. In my early thirties I'd realised finally that the horrible feeling of sadness I'd always had of not fitting in was not such an issue. I was always going to be on the outside because I'm not afraid to voice my opinions and just be me rather than try to fit in with the crowd. Therefore, it was much better to just carry on as I was and be happy with it. Funny how that change of mindset can liberate so much. Like a lot of other people I have had periods of complete lows, but truthfully these were caused more by my sense of inner self than any concern about my outer self, so I suppose I am fairly body positive. However, it took me a long time to feel secure in any sense that I was worth liking as a person. That's all I'll say on that subject though.
So then we jump forward to 2015 and I had a body shape I didn't feel self-conscious about and I felt good in myself. That's when my wardrobe truly took off and I started filling it with clothes that I really wanted to wear.
Now the fabulous pattern that is starting to fill up my closet as I make more versions of it is the Rita Blouse from Charm Patterns created by the hugely talented Gretchen Hirst. I do use a lot of her patterns as they absolutely nail the shapes I'm most drawn to.
Funnily, I had been searching for this exact shape in a pattern but had drawn a blank and then Gertie announced she was launching the pattern for Rita. I was thrilled as I always start off with a shape I want rather than seeing a pattern first and being inspired.
When the pattern was launched I downloaded the Pdf version rather than wait for it to be posted from the States. Sewing needed to start quickly. I chose to make it in the pink gingham in my first picture and now here's the best part, the pattern had a range of cup sizes up to a DD. Now I'm a 34 FF so narrow underbust but a few dress sizes up in the boobage. As it's gathered around the bust and then fitted in the panels underneath I was able to easily choose the size pattern that would fit me best with no alterations here. The only alteration I had to make was in the length of the bottom part, which I didn't do in my first top.
It's an absolute dream of a pattern to make up, uses very little cloth which means some of the smaller bits of vintage cloth I have work very well with it and it feels wonderful to wear.
After making six of these tops I thought hmm, this would make a beautiful frock. I could see it with a full skirt as well as a fitted skirt. In my stash I had this gorgeous stretch cotton sateen which was perfect for a fitted frock so the fabric led the way.
The only changes to the pattern I had to make were on the blouse panels. I marked where my waistline is (which is slightly lower than on the pattern markings) and then I added 1.5cm for seams to attach the top to the skirt. I traced off a new pattern for the dress and searched for a pencil skirt pattern I already had.
My next thought was how am I actually going to get into the frock as I didn't want to have a zip all the way to the top which would alter the lovely line of gathering at the back neckline.
I decided to put the zip a few inches down from the back neckline and drafted a placket to make it neat inside. To get into it with the zip open I simply step in through the stretchy neck and then zip up. It worked perfectly so I was thrilled.
I don't have any other photos of me wearing the finished dress as it was a bit tricky trying to balance a selfie stick so I could get a full shot when I was alone in the house. No able photographers were on hand that day.
I wore the dress on Sunday evening and I'll be able to wear it for our Lindy Hop dance lessons too as there's enough room for movement in that skirt.
It's so comfortable, which is a huge plus for me. I hate feeling like I'm wearing my clothes, you know too tight and you end up thinking I can't wait to get this darned thing off.
I'm beyond pleased with my finished frock and for me this one sums up what the #smyly2018 challenge is all about that sewing makes you love yourself. Well more precisely it made me feel good about myself, wearing something I made in a shape I wanted to wear.
There will definitely be more of these frocks. I'm already thinking of a summery floral cotton with a full skirt as my next one.