Am I the Same Girl?

Reader, what are you wearing?  (Lusty opener, I know.)  I am in my pajamas, but earlier today I was wearing a gauzy cotton skirt, a v-neck t-shirt, a cardigan, and brown woven granny flats.  Who cares, Seam Ripped?!  There is a point here, I promise.  I bought the skirt when I was 14, shopping for high school.  I was just making my way out of that awful Abercrombie and Fitch phase, and for once didn’t buy something because my friends were wearing it, or because I wanted to look like some topless, beach-tan, gravity-defying blonde girl.  I was buying it for me.  Truth be told, I was also buying the skirt for someone else: its designer.  Not the company, but the person.  It was as if the skirt were a coincidence of my desire and his creative leanings.  (Look who’s getting all “stars aligning” on you.)  Oh, good, here’s the point: It’s never just been me liking something, and picking it up.  Now, I like the skirt for what it is, and what the 100+ wears I’ve gotten out of it mean to me.  Yet, I still don’t wear it alone.  There looms that random, but clear, relationship between end consumer and designer.  It’s not bad, it’s not even less-than-ideal; it’s just a fact.  Plain and simple.

Now I sew.  Designer and wearer are not one, but maker and wearer are.  I’ve been following Wardrobe Architect—not quite doing, more nibbling around it and making little ‘hmm’ noises, here and there—and the only thing that has really become clear to me is that I don’t have a real grip on the whos and whats and whys of my wardrobe anymore.  I’ve been trying to sort out a lineage, and draw myself a cohesive-ish future path, but that’s complicated by a handful of things.  This summer, I’m tasked with essentially building up my wardrobe from scratch.  I think I have something like fifteen wearable dresses that fit well, and a handful of pencil skirts that’ll see me if I magically manage to shave off an inch or so of hip.

Looking at my to-sew list now, it would be nearly unrecognizable to Charlotte of 2008 (which is apparently when I started considering sewing, lord have mercy).  Not just because of all of the patterns from independent companies, but the nature of what I’m sewing.  Contemporary patterns!  Dinner plate-size watercolor flowers!  I can’t figure I start and you end, reader (writer, blogger friend).  Cue soundtrack!

In 2008, most of my sewing information came from Pattern Review and the Purl Bee.  I think I had just started following Erica Bunker, followed soon thereafter by Megan Nielsen.  My patterns from 2008-2011 are mostly Vogue designer patterns from Tracy Reese, Michael Kors, and the like.  Then something switched.  I started reading Patty the Snug Bug, and I’d randomly stumbled upon Idle Fancy’s Mary on Pattern Review.  I fell down a Gertie wormhole, and emerged wearing florals.  A lot of florals.  Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like florals before, but it is as if someone came into my closet and beat it to death with a rose-print stick.

I’ve got rather mixed feelings about this.  I like what I wear, don’t get me wrong, but I wonder why I like it.  It is useless trying to abstract the me from the it and from the yous in the y’all.  (Pronouns for everyone!)  It is also hard to reconcile my floral wardrobe with the images of the Vogue-reading, Dries van Noten-loving Charlotte of Christmases Past.

I’m not writing a book here, so we’ll continue this next week (or during a week six or seventy or a hundred months from now).  Next time, we will have special guest appearances from Elaine Showalter (bomb-ass English professor, and mother of Michael Showalter, which makes her the grandmother of the book Guys Can Be Cat Ladies, Too) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  That is, guest appearances from their work.  We’re going to agonize over what the florals mean.  After that, we might even talk about the person-to-person connection that may or may not exist between designer and customer, and compare it to what we’ve got going on here and now.  Get excited, people.  (Can you tell I kind of wish I had a paper to write?)

In any event, I totally shirked my muslining duty this weekend, and instead watched The Bletchley Circle and read The Woman Upstairs.  I haven’t had two completely free weeks in something like four or five years.  I am basically sucking the marrow out of this “break” thing.  More soon!

15 thoughts on “Am I the Same Girl?”

  1. Ooh, I like how you wrote this. I always end up weeding out at least a few weird items that end up in my wardrobe because of the indirect influence of other bloggers. I’m usually pretty good because so few people sew my “real” style, but then again it is so easy to be swayed.

    1. It is easy! And sometimes I wonder if there is anything wrong with being swayed. Are our real styles just the products of a lifetime of outside influences, rather than active choice or rational judgement? Then again, I’m not sure I have a real style. (Though you totally have swayed me back in the direction of considering vintage patterns,w which is where I started out all those years ago.)

  2. 6 months ago I cleaned my closet and I had to admit that a lot of me-mades, especially the most popular on my blog just were not me. I almost cried. Then I felt bad for being so superficial. Then I aimost cried again. Then I folded the stuff and neatly put it away in my sewing room for “future reference”.

    1. I downloaded the free Lekala pencil skirt pattern after seeing your version of their single-dart pencil skirt. You are an influencer!

      You weren’t being superficial! It’s so weird to really take stock of what you make and why you make it. I do love that you saved everything instead of carting it off to be donated. I am so confused by some of my makes, I want to dramatically destroy them—maybe a bonfire?

  3. I think personal style is ever-changing. It’s not superficial, it simply is. And I have no idea why we like certain things and don’t have a good reason. I like all sorts of crazy things (cropped, sleeveless, lacy western-y shirts with heart-shaped cutouts; I’m looking at YOU!) I’m constantly attracted to dress patterns–I hate wearing dresses–they don’t fit my lifestyle and I don’t feel confident or comfortable in them, but I have tons of dress patterns that I’ll never sew for God-only-knows what reason. And I’m sure I’ll buy more. We are, by nature, somewhat unreasonable…

    And no. You aren’t the same girl. I’m not the same girl I was last year or last month, and I’m OK with that. I’m a work in progress, just like you. 🙂

    1. Ahhh, but it would be so much easier to dress the same girl, month after month!

      Um, dude, cropped, sleeveless, lacy, western-y shirts with heart-shaped cutouts? Where have you been all my life? (My heart is a saloon, but also the yacht of a 1970s shipping magnate, a tame garden society luncheon, and a weekend on the hunt.)

      I suppose this is why we blog, no? So that we can look back and think, “I wore WHAT?”

  4. See I think I have no discernible style but then people regularly tell me apparently I do and it’s distinctive. Hell, even one of my team at work (a 25 yo dude for what it’s worth) saw my new cycling jersey and declared it unmistakably me.

    So maybe you *do* have a style and you’re just waiting for someone to describe it to you? Certainly the lazy way out

    On a not very related note, this is why I am anti-tattoo, for me. I look back at what I sewed and wore nary 6 months ago and shudder. Thank goodness my dresses are not welded to me, that’s all I can say

    1. Oh, I was so thinking about the tattoo thing just before I read this, Jenny! I remember seeing a Sartorialist photo a few years ago, of a very pretty woman in a sheath dress with a crown of curls and two (two!) quarter-sleeve tattoos, and thinking, “I should get a quarter-sleeve.” Yeah. No. Not happening.

      The thing is, I think you always look chic (and I obviously see you everyday like your coworkers—grain of salt, etc.), but I don’t have a style box for you. You seem to look really comfortable in what you wear. Not sweatpants comfortable, but rather that there’s no uncertainty there. For me, that makes it seem like whatever you are wearing is a reflection of you at the time, if that makes any sense without overreaching.

      I was out to dinner the other night, and a friend’s friend told me that I always look like a doll. Shiny but dead behind the eyes, I wonder?

  5. I was playing along with the Wardrobe Architect, but I also have trouble with deciphering what is me and what is something else. I love florals, always have, yet never wear them and don’t have them in my home decor. I feel my style is almost schizophrenic. Maybe we can figure ourselves out one of these days!

    1. I think I’ve spent too much time with the post-modernists, because I can’t help but wonder if anything is ever any of us. I mean, the best me, the most “me” me is basically an amalgam of a whole bunch of projections from other people and media. Maybe someone else can figure us out for us? That would be a great deal, I think.

  6. Visual diet, much? I follow some absolutely fabulous blogs that totally influenced my sewing style in the early days. It’s had not to be influenced by something when you surround yourself completely by those things! But now, I’m far more confident in both my skills and what I like to wear. I’m much better at buying fabric because it will become something that will suit me or my wardrobe, rather than binging on fabric to satisfy the need to ‘have’ it. Even still… pinterest threatens to derail my practical sewing efforts on a daily basis. Moar evening dresses!!!

    1. Pinterest is actually going to kill me. Like, dead. In my sleep.

      It’s not even the evening dresses, for me. It’s things like crop tops. I can get away with a lot, as a student, and I will *find* a place to wear an evening dress, but crop tops on the filthy Washington Metro? Nope.

      Your comment and your sewing give me hope for marrying practical and chic. (That French jacket, for instance. Swoon!)

  7. I think I spent too much time with the post-modernists. My ‘ME’ is a socially constructed identity, so I guess MY style is just another product of that social construction, seen through a pair of glasses of perception and expectations… Pfff, confusion is once again knocking on the door of my head…

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