Archive for the ‘silhouettes’ Category

Patterns Galore!!

My grandmothers are both beautiful women who grew up on farmlands, were orphaned as young teens in the Depression, and worked their way through most of their early lives. And despite the natural implications of this image, both were also extremely stylish young women.

This is my Nana (my mother’s mother):

And this is my Gramma (my father’s mother):


They are both incredible women who have had a tremendous impact on me, both in terms of my perception of strength in femininity and the legacy their love and hard work will have on me for my entire life. Nana lived in Michigan, throughout my childhood, and eventually moved to a retirement community in Florida, so we do not get to see her as often as any of us would like. Fortunately, Gramma lives closer.

Indeed, I write this because the family visited her, yesterday. She is recovering from six broken ribs, right now (actually recovering, at age 91 — what a fighter she is!), but she still found time to usher my sister and me to her sewing room to scout out the most interesting patterns and pieces a lifetime of sewing has to offer. It is a veritable treasure trove. Gramma’s eyesight has been too finicky for sewing for some time, now, and the room itself is unfortunately cluttered beyond use. The closet is filled to the brim with beautiful handmade clothes, the walls stacked with shelves upon shelves of patterns sitting pretty in little shoeboxes for easy access. My sister and I take one shelf at a time, seeking out the most interesting and useful patterns for our purposes. And luckily for me, my sister’s tastes are so inherently different from mine as to present little competition, between the two of us!

When I get home, I sort the lot by Silhouette and place them gently in my filing cabinet. The options this presents me with are exceptional. If an easy-make item of clothing is not in fashion, I am able to simply make it myself. And when items of clothing do come into fashion, I have broad visual references of what I intend to wear with it. It’s all well and good to have a general idea of what ‘Silhouette A’ looks like, but to see it demonstrated over an extended period is extremely helpful to understanding its flexibility to current trends. And indeed, there have been several Silhouette concepts that I have not accepted for everyday wear precisely because the silhouette does not play out, over time, without significant changes. This does not mean I won’t wear these shapes, but it does mean that I am not deluding myself into thinking that these are ‘timeless’ pieces that I can center my entire wardrobe around.

More than anything, I think the sharing of information between grandmother and granddaughter is deeply important. Gramma is my father’s mother, so drawing on her considerable sewing expertise links us in a way that does not supersede my important functional relationship with my mother, who after all takes me shopping, listens to my crazy ideas, comments on my reference pictures, talks me out of wearing corsets to job interviews, and actually guides me through the sewing process when I get lost in the work or the machine starts talking back at me.

I am lucky. In an age when many girls do not have anyone to show them basic household skills (cooking from scratch or sewing functional fashion), much less any interest in absorbing such information, I have three wonderful women to light my way — even if I did come to it a little later in life than might be desired.

Post scriptum.

Nana cannot travel much, anymore, so these pictures are from the last time we were all together. I think I must have been a freshman in high school, or younger. I still have bangs and my trademark Jedi-braid.


Silhouette System

The premise of this makeover is based around the concept that by creating coherent silhouettes, one can solidify and control one’s image to a specific set of flattering ‘looks’ that keep a person (namely me) from putting pieces of clothing together that do nothing, whatsoever, for each other (for example, wearing palazzo pants with long blouses).

At the present time of writing, I have devised four separate silhouettes. Some are quite simple and readily recognizable. Silhouette A is an a-line silhouette, relying on high-rise bohemian ‘maxi’ skirts, and gaucho & palazzo trousers paired with structured, fitted tops. Look at any collection of vintage patterns (and at Vogue patterns, in particular) to see this ‘look’ of full display. Likewise, Silhouette C, which pairs big billowy shirts and mini-dresses with big shoes and fitted pants, has been an absolute staple of modern couture.

But being me, the other two silhouettes fare into distinctly different territories. One is completely devoted to creating a workable look for pantaloons and long artsy vests. The other takes takes fairly routine women’s business suiting and explores the subtle application of corsets, bodices, fancy hats, and mild-mannered steampunk elements, resulting in a subdued, professional, edgy look that I have neither seen nor put to use, before.

Silhouette-oriented makeovers suit my purposes because they control style, which is less a matter of what clothes one wears and more a matter of how they are put together. Carefully orchestrated silhouettes create a balanced look with a framing device and a focal point. Keep in mind that these need not be the same article of clothing. Silhouette A is framed by the expansion of the trousers and skirts, at the bottom, but the focal point here is clearly the blouse, which appeals to the eye through bright color, structural detail, and possible asymmetry.

If this kind of approach appeals to you, start by looking through your closet (or any magazine) for the sorts of clothing that appeal to you. If you have a few favorite one-pieces, you may want to start with the silhouette and break it down into its possible component parts. But if you are drawn to specific knock-out pieces in your wardrobe – say, a statement jacket or a type of pant – do an image search for that style of clothing and see what others are wearing with it and how different pairings create different statements. Find a pairing that speaks to you and begin extrapolating, from there.

There are so many different types of clothing, but silhouettes are what make those pieces pop. So think like an artist! What inspires the looks you love, and where do they draw your eye? Once you establish those basic principles, you are well on your way to creating (and controlling) striking looks that flatter your body and create a sense of coherence to any wardrobe.

Happy hunting!