Proportion and Practicality

Today I’m blogging over at Cali Fabric about my coral leopard Santa Fe tent dress… which really got me thinking about what works on my body and what I like to wear. Proportion and practicality – this dress needed some tweaks to get there!

PicMonkey Collage

First, proportion. I started off with the version on the left. The mesh ruffle felt cute and flirty while I sewed it, but in pictures (and real life) it made the skirt too long and the dark colour dress distracted the eye. I felt very “ladies who lunch”! So I cut off the ruffle and rehemmed (actually, there is still some ruffle in the hem, which does give it some useful volume). Shorter = sassier = cuter, to my eye at least!

And yet… the belted dress felt so short to me. Like, can’t sit down without touching skin to the seat short, which is just not comfortable to me. Which is where practicality came in… because realistically, I’m never going to wear a non-stretch belt with a knit dress, even if it makes it more flattering. So I’ve been wearing it like this, instead:

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To my mind this is a true tent dress – angling out right from the underarm with no shaping. I think it’s a silhouette what works because you feel good in it, not necessarily because it makes your body look bangin’. Does that make sense? It’s the smile and strut that sell it, not the look itself.

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On a tangent though, isn’t it nice to remember that your favourite patterns can take you from work to play with very few changes? One version I’d wear to give a presentation at work, one I’d only wear on weekends, and the only difference is a belt and 3″ of length.

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This dress reminded me of how clothing creates identity: The longer length and ruffle made it feel older, and helped me role-play “competent professional with a hint of sass”… but I sewed it in the summer, when what I wanted to channel was “34 isn’t old!”

That is rather a lot of deep thought to come out of a coral leopard jersey dress! How proportion changes perception, how practicality dictates what we actually wear even when it isn’t the most “flattering”, how one pattern can be easily changed, and how we want our clothing to make us feel. I love sewing blogging for giving me a chance to process all those thoughts, and in the end, still have a cute dress!


17 thoughts on “Proportion and Practicality

  1. I like deep posts! Clothing is SO tied to identity, place, situation, time of day, appropriateness, age – it’s such a BIG deal really. And I think women are embarrassed to admit that it is a BIG deal. They feel like they are being small or petty or mundane, superficial but to underestimate it’s power in the world and over us is to just deny what’s real.

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    1. YES! It’s such a huge part of how we construct and define our identity, but we’re supposed to do it casually and effortlessly? Come on. Looking like you want to takes thought! I think it’s universal, too – how he dresses is really important to my husband’s sense of self, even though you’d never call him daper. Clothes matter!

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  2. Among other things, it’s a form of communication that can express lots of different things to ourselves and others. “This is who I am, and I don’t care if you think it’s weird.” “I have a lot of money.” “I’m a professional.” “I want to fit in.” “I want to be invisible.” “I’m not bound by your rules.”

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    1. Well said! And I bet we all have at least one outfit in our wardrobe that expresses each message – the professional look, the sassy look, the “don’t notice me” look…

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  3. I love your thoughful analysis of your creations, I learn from you. I like the shorter version and yes, you are young and sassy and should be who you are!

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  4. Amazing what a difference a couple of minor changes can make. This has lots of parallels with a dress I’m making at the moment – I had intended it to be knee length but when cutting out the skirt realised I didn’t have enough fabric, so I’m hoping the short and sassy option will work for me as well as it has worked for you! I’m also loving all the tent dresses you’ve been making and am keen to try one myself, seems the perfect dress for hot summer days.

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    1. Embrace short and sassy! You can always stick leggings under it if it’s too short. (I tried on a winter shift dress the other day, and was SHOCKED at how short it is… but I always wear it with leggings, and it looks fine that way! Funny how bare legs can change a look!)

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  5. After years of eschewing fashion as “not my thing” sewing has helped me see the stories that good clothing design can tell. There is a difference – and I think you touched on this – between looking good and feeling good in a garment or an outfit and it is as much about identity as it is silhouette.

    I love your posts. Sewing and creating is self discovery and a philosophy of its own.

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    1. I’m loving your fashion journey too! You’ve been looking great in everything youve made this year, and seems like you are really honing in on you style!

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  6. It is amazing how much difference an inch or two makes in how you feel/look in a garment! I love this dress without the ruffle- young, flirty and fun!

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    1. Isn’t it amazing? I felt like I’d take at least 5″ off the hem, because it looked so different… but nope, really only 2 or 3 inches at most!

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  7. Love this fabric! And the tent version of this dress. It’s actually nice to see you in a shorter dress, even if it’s not normally your thing. Short dresses (imo) look more fun and flirty on any body.

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    1. I totally agree! Showing leg makes everything more fun – and it’s easier to wear than something low-cut, where you always have to worry about what is showing!😉

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  8. Ha, you’ve got me – my first thought was ‘oh I like the one on the right. It’s so subtle and simple!’ I guess I consider coral a nuetral now😄

    There’s something very attractive about a floaty, breezy dress like that, even if it’s not ‘flattering’ as in ‘makes you look hourglass’. It can still make you look good! And I definitely think it does. Maybe the strut is translating through the computer screen😛

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  9. Personal style feels like such an ongoing quest – just as I get to grips with what I want to wear (and then learn how to make it), I change my mind! Lifestyle changes and getting older both affect what I want to wear, so my makes change too. Great to see such a clear example of how a simple change can really alter the mood of a dress – thank you.

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  10. Hi, it was a nice dress either way. I did like the definition the black boarder gave to the dress, although maybe it would have been a bit lighter if it been a simple mesh and rather than being ruffled? Am going to have to try that on something🙂. Really cute dress and good colour on you. abbey

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