From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?
Yet another blogging favourite joins us today to talk us though her handmade wardrobe – it’s Handmade Jane. I’ve been very excited about featuring Jane, not least because I love her style (and I bet you do too) but because she’s also possibly one of the nicest bloggers you could meet in the flesh. But enough of the fawning – let’s see if Jane will let us into her drawers!
Jane, anyone who follows your blog knows you’re mad for vintage patterns, polka dots, gingham and shirt dresses! But if you had to describe your style, how would you sum it up?
Well, I think you’ve covered all life’s essentials in one fell swoop there! If I was blowing my own trumpet (which I am), I’d say ‘elegant chic with a vintage twist’! I’m a stay at home mum, which dictates the sort of clothes I wear to a certain degree – although I love them, wiggle dresses just look plain wrong down at the park! Having said that, I do like to look like I’ve made an effort – I’m a naturally neat person and am not comfortable being scruffy. So knee length skirts and dresses with cardigans seem to be my wardrobe staples during the day.
Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me-made wardrobe?
Other sewing bloggers mostly, closely followed by old films and books, and of course, Pinterest, which I have to ration myself with, otherwise I’d be on there clicking away all day. I’ve just started collecting classic Agatha Christie books of the 1950s and 1960s, partly because I love a good crime novel, but also because the unfortunate murder victims on the front covers always seem to be rocking a gorgeous frock!
Any kind of wartime drama is right up my street, especially if it features girls swanning around in tea dresses and cardigans. I really like Sarah Waters’ novels because she has a wonderfully evocative writing style and is a stickler for period detail, whether it’s clothes, decor or manner of speech. I’m thinking specifically of The Night Watch which is set during WW2.
But with all sources of inspiration, it’s the vintage details that really get me going: a ruched bustline, a lace trimmed collar, a piped edge, an unusual colour combination, vintage buttons…. I’m always looking for ways of incorporating these details into my own sewing. I’m not really trying to create an entire vintage look, just a flavour. So I might make a shirt dress from a modern pattern, but shorten it and perhaps add vintage buttons for more of a 1940s look.
Who are your style icons and why?
I’ve got a soft spot for blonde bombshells from the 1950s! It’s a look that really appeals to me: the curvy figure, the sexy cut of the clothes, the blonde hair, the red lippie. Marilyn Monroe is probably my number one style icon.
Some of her film costumes are eye poppingly wonderful, and it was two of them (a halter neck dress from Niagara and a cherry print dress from The Misfits) that inspired me to make my own Cherry Fabulous dress (seen above) this summer.
Her off-duty style is fabulous too: halter neck tops, polka dot sundresses, fitted sweaters and tight trousers – she always looked pulled together and perfectly accessorised.
Are there any particular designers that you use for inspiration?
I’m not really interested in current fashion trends. I feel quite strongly that what I
wear should be about what suits me, my personality and my figure, rather than
what’s currently doing the rounds on the catwalks. Tara Starlet and Vivien of
Holloway clothes are great for vintage style inspiration. I think Orla Kiely‘s eye for
design and colour is excellent and I always like the clothes she designs, even
though they are ridiculously expensive. I’ve recently discovered Kate Spade, and
was delighted to find she has a similar obsession with polka dots as me!
If you had to select one self-stitched garment that really encapsulates your style – what would it be and why?
That’s a difficult one! I think the easy option would be to choose a polka dot blouse or a gingham dress, as both these types of garments encapsulate my style in a nutshell. But if I was putting a little more thought into it, I’d have to say my Oolong dress. I made it for my brother’s wedding last summer and virtually everybody I spoke to said the dress was very ‘me’! It’s a flattering, feminine fit with 1940s style details (ruched bust, slightly gathered sleeves, knee length) in an oh-so-pretty blue floral fabric. I like the fact that it’s vintage in look but retains a modern edge. It’s also one of those dresses that makes me feel fabulous whenever I wear it, which can only be a good thing, right?!
Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?
I’d like to be a bit more of a risk taker but I just can’t drag myself away from my favourites most of the time! I’m constantly drawn to red, red/navy combos, 1940s florals, polka dots and gingham. A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested that maybe ‘enough was enough’ with the gingham and polka dots. It was like a red rag to a bull. If I like them, they suit me and make me happy, I’ll wear gingham and polka dots every day if I want to!
Having said that, I do have a hankering to wear yellow and this is one thing I’d like to be braver about. I have a Pinterest board full of yellow inspiration which I’m constantly sighing over. My reticence is because I know red and blue suit me, so I can wear them with confidence. With my colouring, I’m not so sure about yellow, and if I don’t think something’s quite right on me, then I won’t be confident wearing it. I’m taking baby steps though, and have taken advice from Caitlin Moran in her book ‘How to be a Woman’. She says, “every woman needs a pair of yellow shoes (they unexpectedly go with everything)”. Too right.
There are certain looks some of us just can’t pull off… do you have a style bugbear?
Anything that ‘s too flowing or unstructured – I just look pregnant! I definitely need some shape definition. And like Zoe, circle skirts just don’t do it for me. I love them on other people and really wish they suited me. But they don’t.
What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?
Amazingly, after so many years, I still really really love my wedding outfit. A dressmaker from Brighton made my dress, based solely on some pictures I’d drawn and amazingly, she got it spot on! It’s a sleeveless, fitted, floor length gown in red crepe de chine, with princess seams. Very simple and timeless and she managed to get the fit just right. I wore a matching shoulder wrap and red heels, and truly felt like a movie star (as all brides should on their wedding day!) I didn’t stop dancing and smiling all day!
What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?
I have to mention Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons, as hers was the first sewing blog I started following. Seeing the evolution of her handmade style really inspired me to start up my own blog. I also got very excited when I first discovered Lauren’s blog Lladybird – a lot of her style preferences overlap with mine, so I’m always keen to see what she sews next! Her beautiful polka dot Ceylon dress is probably one of my favourite ever dresses. I also really admire Casey‘s unique, vintage style – she just does her own thing and always looks wonderful! This is just the tip of the iceberg though, sewing bloggers inspire me on a daily basis.
Thank you so much Joanne for inviting me to be part of this excellent series. I can’t WAIT to see who else you have up your sleeve! x
Thanks for introducing me to Kate Spade (and wasting a whole afternoon) Jane! I’ve already got my eye on the Oolong pattern after seeing your version… divine. And who else wants to see Jane’s wedding dress NOW?