Self-Stitched-September 2011: A review

Self-Stitched-September has ended. Gone are the mornings of trying to figure out how to wear that skirt again and make it look different this time. Gone is chasing the husband around the flat with a camera at 7.30am shouting ‘Please take my pic now!’/’Don’t make me look fat!’/’That’s terrible – take it again!’ <insert yours here>This was my first attempt at one of these hugely popular events, staged by the fantastic So Zo… When I signed up and hesitantly proudly displayed my pledge on the blog, little did I know what I was letting myself in for. I barely had enough self-stitched clothes to last me a week, never mind thirty days. So most of the first two weeks of September were spent hurriedly pumping out smock tops like a first world sweat shop. (But they stood me in good stead, so thank you smock tops – you were my wardrobe saviours.) My beignets were another gift when it came to putting outfits together – they’re so easy to team with tops. And tights. And bare legs as I discovered at the end of the month when the UK experienced an Indian summer. Infinitely versatile.

What didn’t work so well? Hmm – one of my first attempts at dressmaking – an orange and brown sixties style shift (day 28). I made it by drawing round an outline of an existing dress, cutting two pieces out and sewing them together. Yes, cavewoman stylee. I’m surprised I didn’t drape a cat round my neck for warmth and club my husband for nuptials. Unsurprisingly the dress is shapeless and uncomfortable to wear. But it provides a useful reminder to us all as to why the great seamstress in the sky invented darts. An early Sorbetto (day 20) made me feel and look grey but I did get some great feedback from Portia and Karen on attempting another one now I have some more sewing experience under my belt.

But what did stand out for me during SSS’11 was some of my attitudes to dressing. I like to think  I’m a fairly average 30-something woman when it comes to my wardrobe: I’d like to make more of an effort (but I generally don’t), I have a few body hang ups (who doesn’t?) and high street shops, magazines, TV and celeb culture make me feel like I should always be buying and consuming or else I’m going to miss out. This all combines to make me feel frequently unsatisfied with my wardrobe, often unwilling to take risks in case they backfire and scared of going against the flow and embracing my inner style. So in no particular order of importance, here are my thoughts on SSS’11. “We sure all learned something that September…” etc

It’s ok to wear something that isn’t ‘bang on trend’
I know this sounds silly, and of course we all wear old favourites from our wardrobes without giving a hoot as to whether they’re in Grazia this week or not. But by wearing outfits that are distinctly not purchased as part of an ‘Autumn drop’ at Topshop or churned out by the squillions from H&M, I did feel like I was very much going against prevailing notions of how to dress. In fact, at the beginning of the challenge I was convinced that someone would shriek at me in the street, finger pointing and face aghast ‘You MADE that? And you’re wearing it OUTSIDE??’ You’ll be glad to know that feeling eased off after a while.

It’s ok to plough your own style furrow
Who cares if your style is crazy fifties housewife (gin and G-plan) with a dash of Edwardian glamour. Work it. During the challenge I found there were certain things I really liked that I didn’t realise: nippped in waists with big belts, any print with an animal on it, peter pan collars. I already knew I loved polka dots in a big way but woah – how I do love those polka dots. They just call out ‘oh hai, join us for teh fun times!’ to me. I think there is some ‘inner style’ realisation at work here but it’s yet to fully crystallise into a ‘look’. But that’s half the fun surely?

It’s not ok to think you’re not worth the effort
This is a weird one to try and explain but I’ll have a go. By focusing on a daily outfit and trying to make it look nice and match well with other items, I suppose I started taking a bit more notice of my appearance on a daily basis. It made me realise that most days (pre SSS’11) I just threw on a top, a pair of jeans and scampered out the door. I work in an office but my role is considered ‘creative’ so I get away with wearing whatever I want, which usually equals ‘no effort’ in my book. Sounds great, until you realise that you’ve lived in jeans and converse for so long that you’ve forgotten how to put something else together entirely, and you start to think you don’t suit smarter clothes so there’s no point in even trying. Before you know it you’re in a bit of a slump, not valuing yourself, your own style, and even having body woes (because you’ve forgotten how to wear something that shows you have a waist, you think you don’t have a waist). So whilst I’m not going to be all evangelical about how SSS’11 showed me how to make the most of myself again (that would be an exaggeration) I certainly started to think about making more effort on a daily basis, planning outfits more and just thinking to myself ‘yeh – you are worth it’. Hope that makes sense…

God this has turned into a bit of an essay. And no pics to break it up! Oh alright then – here’s one I made earlier.

Quick check on the cats
Hope those of you who did SSS’11 enjoyed it as much as I did, and perhaps I’ll see you next year…?

9 thoughts on “Self-Stitched-September 2011: A review

  1. Great round up and interesting thoughts! I find that sewing allows me to cherry pick trends. If I see something in a magazine or shop that inspires me I might buy it or use it to influence my sewing projects. But I certainly don’t feel a slave and relish the fact that I am just doing my own spontaneous thing. (I don’t plan colour palettes or seasonal wardrobes in my sewing as I just want to go with the flow and sew what I fancy sewing next.) So perhaps sewing just allows me to be disorganised and call it creative impulse!

  2. I totally identify with your thoughts here. The couple of self stitched challenges I’ve participated in so far, have been suprisingly thought provoking about how I dress and why I dress that way. At first I thought that sounded a bit flaky and self indulgent. But when you view clothes as an outward expression of your true inner self, then everything can seem a little out of whack if that “expression” isn’t quite there yet. I’m still working on mine, but edging closer to a wardrobe that expresses “me” rather that something I just grabbed off a rail because it looked good in Grazia!
    I think you managed very well indeed!

  3. Oooh, nice round up Joanne, I felt very much the same after I completed Me-Made June. Taking part definitely forces your own individual style to rear its head – it’s good to cherry pick style ideas from Top Shop etc but at the end of the day you’re putting your own stamp on the clothes you make which makes them far more worthwhile in my opinion. Since making my own clothes I’ve re-discovered my own look emerge and yes, it’s not always on-trend but I know what I like and what looks good on me and like you, I can add polka dots to everything I make! x

  4. What an excellent post, lots of food for thought here. I’ve really enjoyed seeing your outfit posts and I think you did so well for your first time taking part in a month like this. It must feel great knowing you’ve gained so much insight from it! I’ve not taken part in this kind of thing before, for fear of not having enough clothes, but I’m itching to jump on board the next one!

  5. Thank you all for your comments – am so pleased that some of my feelings resonated with you guys too as I was a bit worried I was over-thinking it. I have to say yesterday I was so pleased NOT to have to wear something self-stitched as in London the heat is ON and all I wanted to do was run about in shorts and t-shirt! Hope you’re all having lovely weather wherever you are! xxx

  6. Really well said! Doing Me Made June and then Self Stitched September has made it “normal” to wear my own clothes and I definitely think harder about “outfits” and “looks” nowadays. Polka dots and Peter Pans are the way to go! 😉

  7. Love this post! Awesome round up of your experience. I think it’s really good to spend some time reflecting on something that you just put lots of effort into, as you have done here. I totally agree with your point about usually grabbing standard jeans and top combos, and how the challenge makes you think a bit more. I got so much pleaseure from seeing myself dressed more as I feel inside during September. Hope you’ll consider challenging yourself again next year!


    • Thanks Zoe 🙂 I’m more than up for another go at it. I like the ‘dressed more as I feel inside’ – that’s so true! Thanks for organising it missus 🙂

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