Friday, 3 June 2016

The Wardrobe Architect Week One: Making Style More Personal

view of my wardrobe from my bed. That orange thing is a kangaroo onesie and it's a very important piece
Ultimate Fran™ wears excellent outfits at all times, often things that she has made herself. As part of my work to become Ultimate Fran I have decided to work through the Wardrobe Architect series from the Colette Blog.

The idea of Wardrobe Architect is to work out your personal style, work out what clothes you should be making and what pieces you are missing to complete your wardrobe. As Colette is a sewing blog, the real idea behind it is project planning. It is so easy to buy pretty fabrics that you have no use for or to make lots of party dresses you’ll never wear, Wardrobe Architect is a series of exercises to help you work out what you will wear and, therefore, what you should be sewing.  


The first week of Wardrobe Architect is about how your identity and your experiences affect your style. There is a worksheet of questions that get you to consider different things that have influenced the way you dress and how you feel in clothes. When I first read through the questions, I couldn’t think of any meaningful answers, and I thought it might be a bit pointless. But I wrote a few things down in my notebook, and over the week I came up with more ideas. I’ve enjoyed having a personal project to think about all week.

Here are my answers:

How has your personal history informed the way you dress? When did your tastes crystalise? Have they changed over the years, and why?

As a teenager, I was an avid reader of ELLEgirl magazine, in ELLEgirl I learned about vintage and second-hand clothes, and I learned that a skirt made out of an old pair of jeans could be better than anything you might buy in a shop. I did make a few things as a teenager – I had an awesome skirt I made out of an old pair of jeans, I had a t-shirt that I had covered with words and song lyrics, and I made a black lace choker that everyone referred to as ‘the garter’. More importantly than all of this, ELLEgirl introduced me to the great love of my life: costume jewellery. Ever since my ELLEgirl days, I have been in love with jewellery. ELLEgirl introduced me to Lady Luck Rules OK, which was everything I had ever wanted from life and accessories, and lead to a pretty intense Tatty Devine addiction. I feel like my jewellery and accessories game is still really influenced by this time in my life, the part I have a problem with is the actual clothing.

How does your philosophy, spiritually or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits? Or, what aspects of these would you like to see reflected?

I believe in the life-enhancing joy of beautiful things. I don’t think that material possessions are the way to happiness, but I do believe that you should have well designed and beautiful things in your life. I try to live by the famous William Morris quote - ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ Budget permitting, I would never buy anything for my home that I didn’t love, I don’t understand why you would buy something ugly if there is a more colourful or better-designed version available. I think I do this well in my home, but I can’t manage it with clothes! I have far too many pieces of clothing that are not beautiful or useful.

My shopping habits do not reflect my philosophy, I buy far too much cheap, mass-produced clothing. I want to stop buying cheap clothes from places like Primark. It’s not good for the environment, and it’s not good for the people making the clothes. It’s hard to resist Primark when the shops are everywhere and full of such cheap, tempting items. I’ll be honest - I am currently wearing knickers, leggings and a vest top all from Primark. I need to do something about my Primark habit.

How has your cultural background shaped the way you look? How have the aesthetics and values you grew up with affected your tastes as an adult?

My cultural background is more boring than I can say! My family is English with a little bit of Scottish thrown in, but I don’t think it’s had much influence on the way I dress. My parents don’t care about clothes or fashion, choosing practical clothes every time. As for aesthetics, I grew up in a slightly messy house full of cats, books, old furniture, and small boys! They don’t have rigid ideas of what looks right. I was allowed to paint my teenage bedroom whatever dark colour I chose and my parents never had strong opinions about my clothes.

However, both my grandmothers had sewing machines and my great-grandmother was a seamstress. The first sewing I ever did was with my Granny and the sewing machine I use today was originally hers. I'd really like to engage with this part of my heritage more. I want to make these talented women proud. 

How are you influenced by your friends, family and the community around you?

I wouldn’t say my community influences my wardrobe very much. I think my friends and I appreciate one another’s styles, but we all dress differently. I’m more likely to be influenced by the people I follow on Instagram!

How do your everyday activities influence your choices?

I can’t drive so I walk a lot and need to wear comfortable shoes! I also need to have outfits that protect me from the weather when I’m stomping around. I have an office job but there is no dress code and I can pretty much wear whatever I want to work. 

Does the place you live inform the way you dress? Does climate factor?

I live in England, what do you think? 

This week I went to work in jeans, a t-shirt, cardigan, and ballet pumps and nearly drowned on the way home. My clothes need to be adaptable because it can be sunny one minute and rain the next.

How does your body image affect your clothing choices? What clothes make you feel good about your body? What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?

One word: Boobs.

Dressing my boobs is difficult because I need to find clothes that look good AND fit. If I measure myself to choose a pattern size, my bust measurement comes out as 2 or 3 sizes bigger than my waist or hip measurement. I tend to wear things with a lot of ease so they can accommodate my boobs without hiding the rest of me in excess fabric.  I enjoy wearing things like jersey shift dresses because they skim my body and make me feel put together and confident and not just a giant pair of boobs.  
In the past, I have worried about ‘dressing to suit my shape’ and all that boring bollocks, I found it joyless and limiting – I think we should just wear clothes that make us feel awesome!

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