Dressing for myself, modeled photos

The question of the day is:  does your style reflect who you are on the inside, who you want to be, or who other people expect you to be?

I’ve had many people say  that their first impression of me was wrong.  Because I dress up so often, they assumed I was going to be girly and frivilous, which I’m actually not at all.  Some of this may just be the way we pigeonhole women into neat little boxes –  after all, if I dress up I must fit a certain stereotype, right?  My actual personality is nothing like the stereotype – I’m somewhat reserved, and I have a sarcastic sense of humor.   I’m not super feminine, it’s just that I like to wear dresses.  I like dresses.    I actually thought about switching up my style to be more approachable, but then I thought “You know what?  I’m not dressing for anyone else.  I’ll wear what I like, and maybe force people to think a little bit about stereotyping women.”

When I was in college I went through a period of terrible depression.  I hated where I was, and where my life seemed headed. But I didn’t want anyone to know that, so I tried to blend in, to wear the same brands and clothes as all the other girls, with the aim of appearing to be generic and blend into the background.  The end result was that I made few friends, and lost what is for me another creative outlet.  After I moved on (and transferred to a school I loved) I stopped trying to be anyone other than myself.  What I realized is that I gained many more friends simply by being myself than I ever had by trying to be someone else.

As to the rest of the question (does your style reflect who you  are or want to be?)  I’m pretty sure it does.  I’m a little formal, a little (as my grandma would say) “fancy.”  I don’t really wear too much lace, or a large number of bows.  I find myself really drawn to clean lines lately, as I’ve started to distill my sewing down to the pieces that I wear the most.  I wear a lot of black and gray, almost always with a splash of really bright color (scarf, tights etc.)  The adjectives I have in my head are “comfortable yet elegant.”  I need to be comfortable in my clothes, but I’m not willing to sacrifice style for comfort, so I have to find the middle ground.

I made a little list of the pieces that I wear the most often, the ones that I think reflect my personality the best:

Simplicity 2603 cardigan, Butterick 5523 dress, Simplicity 2443 dress (this link is to the blue version, but I wear the gray the most,) Simplicity 2219 maxi dress, and Vogue 1225.

Some of these are brightly colored, while others I like because of their drape.  They are all knits (because I wear knits more) but none are really casual.  They are all comfortable, and I always feel like myself when I wear them (which is often… I may have to make a third version of Simplicity 2443 because the gray one is wearing out!)  I go back to this list when planning new projects, because I don’t want to make clothes that I end up not wearing.  Because I often take photos of what I’m wearing (helps me to remember good outfits) I have an easy way to check up on what I’ve worn.

Finally, as promised, here are the modeled photos of Simplicity 2054 (I am happier than I look!)

Sorry for my blurry hands – it’s either too much coffee or camera operator fail!  I’ve got to order a new piece for my tripod (I broke the part that attaches to the camera) so right now all my pictures are being done by a camera propped up on a table!

I wore the dress to rehearsal last night, and I’m pretty pleased with it.  I had to stand  for 4 hours on a stone floor in  a drafty old church, but I was pretty warm (at least on the top half… note to self, try this with leggings and boots instead!)  I like the length of the dress, which verges on tunic.  I wouldn’t wear it without tights.  I did shorten it by three inches, so this is not the length of the actual pattern!

The tights match better in real life, but after wearing them I banished them to the layering drawer (when it’s cold I sometimes wear two pair.)  The problem isn’t the color (they are black) but the fact that they are terribly shiny!  I wish there were a way to be forewarned about this issue, because I don’t like shiny tights at all.

This pose is awful, I know.  But it’s not blurry, unlike the other approximately 70 photos that I took!

How does this dress fit in with my topic of the day?  Well, this dress is certainly comfortable, but I think the cowl gives it some elegance.  The short length keeps it from being too serious.  It has a pattern, though it is subtle, and it fits into the black/gray thing I have going on right now.  I feel like myself in this dress, which is the most important thing to me!

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17 thoughts on “Dressing for myself, modeled photos

  1. Great post! I find several things about my own style to be constants, but much of it is a continually evolving thing. I’ve learned to embrace this just relatively recently. I also find that understanding my own style priorities helps me appreciate those of others, particularly when they are very different from my own. Being comfortable with myself helps me be comfortable with others, I suppose. Your latest dress looks great on you!

  2. I really like this dress and think it fits in perfectly with how you describe yourself. I don’t know you personally but from reading your blog and seeing your pictures, I thought of you as a down to earth, confident, comfortable person who knows what you like and wears a lot of dresses. I never imagined you being frivilous or super feminine/girly. I admire that you know what you like and wear it. I’ve been working on doing the same. I’ve been finally finding courage to wear some of the things I like and it’s very satisfying and surprising when I get compliments or comments from people who say they like what I’m wearing and wish they had the confidence to do the same. And, even when I don’t get compliments, I feel good in what in my choices and I’m trying not to worry. I’m not wearing anything crazy or over the top just not plain and generic. Everyone’s stereotypes are different too. So, no matter what any of us wear it could fit some stereotypes and not others. So, it’s best to just be ourselves and not worry. :-)

  3. Thanks for a very interesting post. I am lucky in that I rarely have to deal with people’s
    making assumptions about me based on my clothes. My colleagues (who are all lovely) wouldn’t notice if I turned up wearing a bin liner and this is wonderfully liberating. The only thing I have to be careful about is that my job sometimes involves heavy lifting, climbing ladders, and the like – but I find it’s amazing what you can manage in dressy clothes if they fit properly. And it does feel good to wear what pleases me rather than other people.

  4. I have to wear clothes that cover me completely, because I work in a lab with dangerous chemicals / organisms, but have pretty free reign with regards to style. I wear dresses and tights more often than trousers because they feel more comfortable to me, and if I seem overdressed in this grad-student environment, who cares? I’m happy and comfy (and covered), which is the most important thing!
    BTW, it gets pretty cold up here in Montreal (sometimes down to -40C), so I layer tights too: I cut off the legs of wooly tights that don’t fit quite right, and pull them up over my fashion tights; easy to remove at work in front of my locker, and they keep the legs warm. (what is it with wooly tights that aren’t long enough?! I’m only 5’5″, and I often buy tights one size too large, but they still are inches too short….)

  5. amy says:

    i always enjoy your introspective and thoughtful posts. I truly believe that you have to make the decisions (about many things, including how you dress) that suit you, your situation and your lifestyle best. But, I also have struggled with this idea and worries about sending messages unwittingly. Ultimately, you never know how other people will interpret your decisions; so, you might as well be happy with what you do.

    I really like your cowl dress. I probably wouldn’t have given that pattern a thought but I really like your interpretation of it and now the pattern is on my list for new year sewing. So, thanks!

  6. I appreciated your reflection! I work at a church, and I have spent a lot of time wondering about how people perceive me based on what I wear. I decided, like you, that I have to be myself, because if I try to be someone they think I should be, I’ll end up bitter and angry and burnt out.

    I used to think it didn’t matter what I wore, since actions are what determine my character. But how I portray myself makes a difference in how I feel. If I feel sloppy, I’m more likely to act sloppy. If I look like I value myself and take my work seriously, then others will be likely to value my work also.

    Thanks for the great thoughts! And your dress is beautiful!

  7. Louise says:

    I like the dress a lot on you & I like the tights, that look a little navy, but punch out the darker lines in the pattern. & the greyish (silver?) flats look nice, too.
    I, too, struggle a bit w/ ‘the office look’ vs the ‘artistic look’. Artistic look stresses interesting colors & handknit items, usually knit tops, while office look would favor a woven shirt, perhaps a shirt w/ tights. Either way, I can get comfortable, but I try distinguish between work clothes & home clothes, a bit. Helps me focus on the fact that I’m working, when I am…. (thanks for your question!)

  8. I can really relate to this post. The part about dressing for “others” in the past (but also trying to act like others expected of you) and eventually realizing it is better to be yourself and let the chips fall than to try to live to other people’s standards, and also the part about how other people’s perceptions of you, based on how you dress, don’t match with who you are underneath. I’ve struggled with this a bit because I feel that if others followed the stereotyped assumptions/connotations associated with how I dress, then they wind up with a very different picture of who I am than the person who is actualy present in front of them. Yet first impressions matter so much in America, that sometimes I wonder if I should really try a little harder to match the image I present with the assumptions I know people will form (obviously, their misperceptions havent held me back enough to really warrant a change though!)

  9. For example … I work as a Project Manager at a non-profit, I got my Masters from Harvard, my parents are a doctor and a lawyer, and my style tends towards “classic with interesting details and sometimes downright quirky.” My boss once asked me, “Do you shop at Saks?” To which I thought, “How in the *(&^ am I supposed to afford THAT???” But based on those factors I named above, you might assume I was the type to be 1) supported by mom and dad, 2) totally knee deep in putting out a really polished image, 3) snobby and full of myself. Actually, I love thrift shops and making my own clothing (so I can create the look I want at a fraction of the cost), keep myself on a tight budget, am a bit shy which can come across as snobby, fress spirited, and love the small things in life. but people who judge me on appearance and superficialities alone would never see that. For the most part I don’t care, because i figure if you’re not going to take the time to know me, then I’m not going to take the time to be bothered by your opinion of me, I’m just going to be me and dress how I want. But occasionally, especially in the professional work sphere, I do run into situations that make me reevaluate …
    Anyways, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

  10. Oops, one more comment. To stay warm in winter, sometimes I’ll layer a pair of opaque leggings underneath a pair of leggings or tights, then pull on wool socks and boots!
    Nobody can tell, but it sure is cozy.

  11. Phyllis says:

    I really like this dress. I dress for comfort. I work in a very low-key office as secretary-bookkeeper. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I gained 40 pounds and have never taken it off. I now hate clothes shopping and don’t own a single dress. I want to dress up sometimes (casual dress) but just hate how everything looks on me. I am tempted with this pattern. Thank you for all of your insights.

  12. Jessica, you pose a question that’s crucial to self-definition, and a great reminder of how powerful our clothing can be. One’s personal sense of style is always evolving, sometimes at greater speeds than others. I certainly dress differently at 56 than I did at 35, partly because of differing job environments, and partly because the parameters of what is comfortable and expresses who I am has changed. The best thing that has come with age is I have far greater body acceptance now than when I was young. My body is different now, just because I’m older. I’ve also gained a lot of weight, and while I would like to be smaller, I know that alone won’t get me more friends or a better life. I make my own clothing because I can fit myself better than the stores can. More importantly, I sew and knit to express who I am, and what I want to say about myself to the world.

    I loved reading your post, and all of the comments. You seem like an easy-going, friendly woman who knows what she wants out of life and isn’t afraid to ask for it. Good for you, and keep on sewing and wearing what feels right for you!

  13. My daughter always wear dresses but she has commented to me before that she is certain that people ,especially men,treat her as being frivolous and do not take her seriously because she chooses to dress in a very feminine way.

  14. quiltyknitwit says:

    Such a good & interesting post. I used to dress a little better for my job, but since I’ve gained so much weight I’ve only been able to wear more casual & comfy types of clothes. So my style isn’t really reflecting too much these days. I wish I could have a personal seamstress who could make beautiful, flattering clothes for me in the way that you make clothes for yourself!

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