Changing Your Clothes

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Closet Confessions: My Commitment Problem

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How do you know when you’ve met The One?

Is it the pattern? The fabric? Or the perfect combination of the two? Exactly how do you decide what materials to match up with a particular design? And when you do decide, how can you be sure you can live with your choice?

Stretch cotton print fabric

Stretch cotton floral print, a months-long victim of my fabric commitment phobia.

Remember this fabric?

Yes, I first showed this to you way back in June, when I unexpectedly was offered a trip to Illinois, and was trying to plan a last-minute travel wardrobe. (To see all the posts in that series, click here.) To cut a long story very short, I ended up not making something for this trip with the print fabric, allegedly due to a combination of other priorities and lack of time.

Right.

Here and now, I confess to you, my sympathetic readers, the plain unvarnished truth: I didn’t want to commit this fabric to a specific project.

It all started when I spotted this fabulous fabric when (of course) I had come to the fabric store for something entirely different. Some of you probably know that, while I’m not averse to prints at all, it takes a lot for a print to actually move me; I’d say in the average fabric store, less than 1% of print fabrics will actually make me look twice, and less than that will make me buy. So when I do find a print that excites me, I pay attention. And this fabric not only has a great print, it’s also a substantial-weight stretch woven cotton, making it highly desirable for the more structured styles I’m experimenting with for myself. Add to that a 30%-off-everything sale, and… score!

Thrilled to the core, I brought my beautiful print home, and while it was being pre-washed, I pored over my pattern collection, and pulled out 3 likely candidates, all dresses. (The scale of this print is such that I couldn’t really picture it on something smaller, like a skirt or jacket.) As I mentioned in that Chicago wardrobe post, I narrowed it down to my favorite of the 3. I even went back out and bought lining fabric and a zipper. I was all ready to cut and sew, and then…

… I chickened out.

I went off on my trip, came back, got busy with other projects. I didn’t exactly forget about this fabric; every now and then, I’d look at my patterns again, but I was having a hard time visualizing any of them made up in the print, so I just put off deciding.

It was during this on-again, off-again stage that I started to realize the extent of my commitment problem. I had ideas, sure, patterns, more than enough— I just didn’t want to make a definite decision, because guess what? There would be no going back.

That’s the whole problem with sewing clothes: unlike knitting, where you can simply unravel and start over, with fabric, once it’s cut, it’s CUT. You’re stuck. And this is the crux of the issue for me, because I can think of so many different things to do with a single piece of fabric— but sooner or later, I have to choose just one. I hate that.

Happily, my desire for a new dress eventually overcame my commitment-phobic inertia. Even more happily, this also coincided with a newly-ordered pattern coming in the mail, one that immediately made me feel that finally, this was the one I could commit to:

Vintage dress pattern

Vintage dress pattern, Butterick 5880, a reproduction of a 1951 design that I thought would be perfect for my fabric! (Click on the photo to see this pattern.)

Relative to my fabric, this pattern had a lot going for it:

  • The close-fitting silhouette would work well with this stretch-woven fabric;
  • I’ve been thinking about trying vintage-inspired silhouettes, in my ongoing experiments for my evolving sense of style;
  • The fabric has enough body in it for the structural parts (like the “shark-bite” neckline), yet enough drape for the front overlay to hang nicely;
  • The skirt back is divided into 3 sections (rather than having a center-back seam), so I could make one of the seams into an off-center slit (for tango purposes, don’t you know);
  • It’s fully lined, so I can test my theories about stretch lining fabrics;
  • Perhaps most importantly, I had enough yardage for this dress, as long as I lined the overlay with lining fabric, rather than using a double layer of the print (which would have been too bulky, anyway, with this fabric).

Finally, nearly 5 months after purchasing this fabric, I made a commitment! Last Sunday, I cut out the dress parts; Monday, I cut the lining and interfacing, and sewed the whole bodice (including lining), and I finished everything else on Tuesday, about 2 hours before going out the door for an evening of tango!

My new dress!

My new dress!

I will say, I had some concerns about dancing in this dress, with its quite slim skirt that reaches below the knee, but with the slit I added to the back, I had no sense of restriction in my movement at all. And while I always feel marvelous when wearing things I’ve made myself, there was something different this time; I think it was that, when I first slipped into my finished dress and looked in the mirror, I really thought it looked good on me. In other words, I felt confident. And that makes all the difference in the world.

And confidence also seems to be the key factor in finally making a commitment to a particular sewing project. Maybe it’s okay to put off committing; I think now that it’s possible that on some level, I wasn’t 100% sure of my original pattern choice. But as soon as Butterick 5880 came along, I just knew it was The One. At that point, it’s not so much about making a decision, as it is knowing it’s the right decision. And it’s pretty easy to commit to something you know is right.

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Author: colormusing

I'm a writer, color palette creator, and designer of fashion, costumes, graphics, knitwear patterns, and yarn.

7 thoughts on “Closet Confessions: My Commitment Problem

  1. I LOVE this fabric and pattern – it looks fantastic and great that you can dance in it too – tango on!

  2. This is GORGEOUS! I thought of Mad Men the minute I saw it. But with a modern edge to it. Very on-trend. Just amazing you can do this! I would probably sow my shirt into my finger!

    By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you: What does “upcycling” mean? Cheers, D

    • Thank you! Yes, I know, it’s very Mad Men-esque, even though the design is from 1951! I think the color palette makes the biggest difference in terms of modernizing the look. There’s something about clothes from that general period that just do great things for a woman’s body.

      Upcycling– it’s a buzzword, I know. It just means taking something and making something even better out of it. Making bookshelves out of old wooden palettes, for example, or making a leather skirt from an outdated coat.

      • Ah! Thanks for the explanation. You are so right about the dresses and women’s bodies! Those trends need to come back. 🙂

  3. that’s a beautiful print. we love the cut of it too, very feminine and fun!

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