Friday, 6 March 2015

Big gingham Zinnia

Haha you guys - see how much I like wearing office clothes again?  This much:

That's my face for "f*** this getting appropriately dressed at 7am sh*t".  Yes, back to the office = back to the dress code. In my case it's not a particularly demanding dress code, but there is nonetheless a line - it falls somewhere in the middle of business casual - that can't be crossed. As I've expanded slightly around the waist since last winter (outrageously and inexplicably!*), some new clothes have been called for.

(*ok it's not inexplicable. I'm outraged nonetheless).

Now here's the thing. While I was off work last year, I enjoyed a long run of highly successful sewing. Almost everything I made during that time was a hit one way or another. I chalked it up to good luck and did my best not to tempt fate by getting smug. And, as expected, in the end that luck has started to turn: recently, the inspiration-sewing-wearing process hasn't been turning out quite so serendipitously well. Not badly, but still. And as I was sitting down to write this post, it struck me that that's probably not a total coincidence.

You see, from May until December I'd pretty much had time and free reign to both sew and wear whatever I wanted. Which I did. (I was going to say that I did so with relish - but honestly, relish didn't come into it. At some point in early June my incredibly helpful doctor advised me to find a hobby or creative pastime to keep myself occupied, not knowing that I was already spending my days obsessively, maniacally sewing as if my life, or at the very least my sanity, depended on it. I just sat there thinking: oh, I'd laugh - if only I could.)  It's hardly surprising really that with the time to plot, fit and sew, I turned out a bunch of things that could be worn immediately, comfortably and often. The clothes I sewed last year were clothes to put me at ease and make me happy.  While I won't credit them with saving my mental health (thank you, pharmaceuticals and therapy!), they did give me a real sense of my own style: those clothes were and are 'me' in a way I'd never quite been able to identify before.

They're also, pretty much without exception, not office appropriate.

This might sound blindingly obvious, but I'd never really thought about it before: I don't have a 'me' to wear to the office.  For all the time over the years I've spent there, I've never been able to just get up and get dressed for work without agonising over it. I know what I want and what makes sense - some kind of uniform of my own, a mix and match bunch of things I like that'll take the stress out of dressing - but I just can't quite get there.  And those recent makes, the ones that've felt like my luck's running out?  Of course, they've all been attempts to fill exactly that gap.

Take this skirt.  It's a Colette Zinnia. I've made it before and really like it - the shape of those pleats really works for me.  And woop woop check matching!  I won't exactly call that a disaster.

Indeed, all elements of this pointed to success. Inspiration hit immediately when I saw the big gingham in Ikea - I KNEW it was meant to be a mini-ish Zinnia. The pattern was tried and tested, the shape pairs well with cardis & simple tops, and in monochrome too - this should all add up to an ideal work skirt. And yet... I re-measured myself and went up a size. Guess what? It's slightly but irritatingly too big. The fabric of course is meant for upholstery, and as I should probably have guessed, it neither holds the pleats nor drapes particularly well. Worse, it wrinkles and doesn't iron nicely either.  My buttonhole placement isn't great and all in all it feels a little, er, homemade.

None of which means I don't wear it.  Maybe none of it is even that bad. I have come to realise that part of my problem with 'waisted' skirts is that I need the waistbands curved when they're frequently not (coincidental recent tutorials on that by Heather and Sunni). Or perhaps it's simply that given the choice I'd ALWAYS rather be wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and loud trainers instead of pretending to be tasteful in dresses.

Either way, I think it makes perfect sense that ambiguous feelings about the wearing will translate into mixed success in the sewing.  While I can muster up plenty of enthusiasm to sew pretty things for work - wrap dresses, shirt dresses, and plenty of excuse to wear them! - I can't help but feel that my underlying feelings about office wear in general might let these projects down.

What do you think? Would you agree? And what do you, wise readers, think I can do about it??

Because, let's face it - business casual is never going to get as casual as I want it to.


  1. I feel the same way about work stuff. I'll make a cute dress and I'll want to make the hem short, how I'd wear it in my real life, but then I remember I want to be able to wear it to work too, so I have to keep the hem longer. Or I'll want to make something sleeveless, but then I can't wear it to work in the summer (I live in Texas, so cardigans aren't really an option unless you like to be hot). Luckily most of the time, I don't actually have to wear business casual (just casual is fine), but I still can't really be wearing hoodies or short have to look at least a LITTLE put together. It always makes me wish I worked from home!

    But for what it's worth, I do really like this skirt on you! At least in the pictures, it just looks pretty and full, and the pleats look fine.

  2. Ah, I had this major clothes crisis when I started teaching but I decided recently that als long as I'm not showing too much boobs or bums it's good. It's a good thing that I'm an art teacher. If I look like a crazy person, parents are like: "yeah, she's the art teacher" (My non-art teaching colleagues probably think the same, but I still look more put together than my movement colleagues, they are wearing the craziest things)
    It's difficult when your real style is being put into a little box for work. Also: skirts that are a crazy bit too big are SO annoying. I recently had to tore a skirt apart 4 times because it miraculously kept on growing bigger. I hope you'll find a way to merge your comfy levels with your wardrobe requirements at work. Keep trying, you'll find something!

  3. Helen // Grosgrain GreenMarch 06, 2015 10:17 pm

    I'm quite lucky in that I can wear whatever I want to work, and yet, I dress "business casual" i'm not really sure why, but I kind of like that there are two mes. One can wear heels, skirts and dresses (that are definitely not practical around small children), and the other can wear jeans and boots/converse (which definitely are). What is interesting though, is that until recently, I have pretty much solely sewn for my work wardrobe, because it was easy. It's cotton and other wovens all the way in fit and flare dresses, simple blouses or pencil skirts. Those t shirts and jeans I wear for casual, are much, much harder to sew (IMO).

    I do like the skirt on you - and you have reminded me that I was given this pattern when I was pregnant, so I must look it out!! The perfect going back to work (after mat leave) skirt for me too. And I think I want a gingham version now. IKEA, you say?!

  4. I think you just need to make the dress code work for YOU, rather than trying to conform your style to suit the dress code. I have to dress differently for work compared to outside of work, but I don't dress at all like the other doctors I work with - I dress appropriately but very much still "me".

    If you like wearing jeans, why not try and make more trousers? Take, say, the CCF Ginger jeans pattern and make it from a plain twill with no top stitching?

  5. I'm like a lot of the other ladies - I've got to wear a certain 'type' of clothing but I still make most of it myself and just try to inject a little of the Tragic into what I can..... I'm actually really limited with what I can wear (I'd LOVE to wear skirts but it just wouldnt work) so if I can wear something that is at least not fugly then I consider it a win! And btw you're in good company with the gingham - my Kombi Sunny Boy has that fabric for his outer curtains.....

  6. First off, I love this skirt! I think it looks great how you have styled it and very business casual appropriate.

    I think you need to find what makes you comfortable and stick with it. So for everyday, if you like sweatshirts, jeans and funky trainers - then find your work version of that. Maybe nicer lace front, and/or sweater knit Lindens, with a skirt, and funky shoes (like brogues or loafers or something like that). Or make a none denim pair of "jeans" and pair them with a button up under a Linden or your other favourite top pattern. I find collars always make things look dressier. Or maybe some woven hudson - elastic waistbands are so comfy! I work from home now, so I don't have to worry about office wear, but it is something I struggled with in the past. I use clothes for expression, and I always felt work put rules on that. Rules always make me want to rebel!

  7. Thank you Heather for such great advice! You've got me re-thinking my whole approach all of a sudden! You're totally right that I could work-style things that I'd wear anyway - now off to my stash to plot...!

  8. It's just about personalising really isn't it, as much as possible. I shouldn't complain really, it sounds like you're much more restricted!

  9. Thanks Meg! I agree, it's the looking professional that poses a problem. We need to be taken seriously after all! Though I am considering dying my hair pink, so may just have to give up on that anyway :-)

  10. Thanks Sophie-Lee! Yes I think you're right, I just need to think about it differently. I automatically think skirts/dresses when I think of dressing smart, but it really doesn't have to be. The twill Ginger jeans is a good idea!

  11. Very good point! I completely agree, sometimes it's great to be able to make the distinction between your work and home clothes. And it is also really nice to have a good reason to sew skirts and dresses when your daily life outside work doesn't call for them. I think the main reason I'm stumbling on this at the moment is because I go straight from work to pick up the kids from school and then often straight on to activities or the park - so I'm trying to make my clothes do double duty!

  12. Thanks Hanne! Embracing the art teacher label sounds liberating! And YES too-big skirts are the worst, they're impossible to wear all day.

  13. Hi Nicole! Yes, I spend a lot of time wishing I worked from home! The temperature issue must be so frustrating too, at least in Belgium it doesn't vary that much year round, and we certainly don't get heat like you do!

  14. I spent years at home and now that I am out and about teaching sewing and all, I am faced with that sort of a question... what is me in a smart seamstress outfit? I don't know yet... I guess I'll have to keep on sewing until I find the right recipe.

  15. I have the same problem as you. Luckily I work from home most of the time, but I feel like I'm wearing a costume whenever I have to dress for the office :(

  16. I know what you mean with office wear! I had the same problem, not being able to figure out how to translate my style into office wear. I didn't work in an office long enough to figure it out. But maybe a capsule office wardrobe might help - find some patterns that you can combine easily. Or take a 'boring' pattern and play with fabrics to make them more you. I used to like the blazers made up in sweatshirt fabric for instance - the office style with the comfortable fabric.


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