Public Notice

So, it’s now official. I am making my public declaration that I will be participating in Self-Stitched September. I had been thinking about it ALOT. I really really wanted to be apart of it and have postponed throwing my hat in because

  1. It’s hard for me to take a photo everyday. However, I’m determined so that’s that.
  2. It’s nearly impossible for me to post everyday, but after watching some of the others who participated in Me Made May, it’s a great idea to recap a few days in one day and I have another idea too, which I’ll show you come September
  3. I have quite a few handmade outfits, but don’t know that I have enough. I’ll be working on this big time this month and during August to try and fill out a few handmade staples in the wardrobe.

And there is my public service announcement.

You may now resume your previously interrupted activities.

  • Tasia - Yay! I did Me-Made-May with maybe 7 or 8 garments? It doesn’t take a huge wardrobe to make it work.
    If you focus on making a few staples between now and then, you’ll have no problem at all! Glad you’re joining the challenge :)

  • Alana - Awesome! Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  • Spookygirl - Well done!
    I firmly agree with the recap-post principle for those who can’t get online all the time.
    Happy creating!

Beauty vs. Brains

I work in an office with many other women. Some have a sense of style and try to put their best foot forward beauty-wise and some couldn’t care less. I fall into the “sense of style” category. I wear my handmade outfits with pride and I do concern myself with the way I look. I like the way I look. I am a little vain, and I primp a little here and there in the mirror, but I don’t always think about the way I look. I mean, I do have other things going on upstairs than just looks and clothes. I consider myself a fashionable, intelligent, thinking young woman.

There is one woman I work with, who doesn’t concern herself too much with the way she looks. She looks presentable everyday. She wears clothes whether they be flattering or not, that are considered office appropriate. She doesn’t concern herself with gaudy jewelry or try to make a statement. She doesn’t wear make-up, and does her hair out of habit everyday. I don’t mind these things, I really don’t and I don’t try to judge it either. There are reasons she looks the way she does I’m sure and they are none of my business. I like her, I do. She has a very infectious laugh. But during a conversation with her one day, I received the distinct impression that in a way, she looked down on me because I concern myself with my appearance and she does not. She concerns herself with more heightened pursuits.

It got me to thinking about that sort of age old internal debate inside of women. “If I’m beautiful, I can’t have brains; If I have brains, I can’t be beautiful” sort of notion. So many women cross my mind and how they embody one and not the other. Marilyn Monroe, for example: complete bombshell, gorgeous, but perhaps not the brightest (or at least, she’s always portrayed in that role). Eleanor Roosevelt: incredibly intelligent, a writer and supporter of women’s rights, though maybe not the most beautiful looking woman.

I suppose what I’m driving at is why can’t women have both? There are many examples of women who have both, I’m sure. And I’m not saying that the two examples I gave didn’t have both either. The problem I most have, I guess, is the criticism of those women who try to look their best by those women who feel they are above such petty endeavors. Come now, aren’t we all playing on the same team? I do think its a rather unjust judgment, especially when many of those beautiful, tasteful women actually do have a brain and, dare I say, actually use it! There, I said it.

What do you think? Has this ever happened to you or maybe, someone you know? Ever felt this way?

To those women whose beauty, in all forms, is very apparent, I know that your smarts are your best kept secret.

  • Amy - I think women should be able to be both. I think I am both.
    I feel the same way every day I go to work. I work in a hair salon. I feel like the nerdy girl hanging out and not quite fitting in with the cool girls. I care about how I look but i don’t usually wear make up and I don’t do much with my hair. Mostly because it takes too much energy for me to fight with it and make it something it is not. But I like it that way. The women I work with I wouldn’t say are unintelligent but when primping gets in the way of running a successful business it starts to bother me. I don’t think it is petty to care about how you look and to take time to make yourself look good because it makes you feel good. I also think that no one should be expected to look perfect every single day.

  • quietandsmalladventures - actually i used struggle with this daily as i’m working on a ph.d in science but love vintage fashions. my DH is in graphic design and most of our friends are not pursuing higher education but are very creative. i don’t dress up to go to lab due to the potential damage that can occur to my garments daily (working with bleach, dyes, bacteria….) but i dress on the weekends and if we go out after work. i finally came to the realization that anyone who judges me on dress in either aspect of my life (lab or non-lab) is probably not worth my time.

  • oonaballoona - i think it’s also a question of what is beautiful– for example, i think eleanor roosevelt is quite beautiful, and she obviously cared about how she looked (i mean, that hat is FABULOUS).
    we can and should have both, or either, if we want. i have a girlfriend who purposefully dresses like a man because she is surrounded by men in the workplace and feels she won’t be taken seriously otherwise. unfortunately for a lot of us, it all comes down to how others perceive us. in the immortal words of digital underground (the wunderkind that brought us the humpty dance) i think it’s of the utmost importance to dowhatchulike.

  • nira - Personally I fall into a wierd middle ground with this subject, for work I wear appropriate clothes as to what im doing (sometimes I have to wear steel toe capped boots) I go to the gym before work three days a week, so I dont wear make up as it eats into my gym time, I have unruly curly hair so this is normally tied back in a pony tail or a braid. On a work day I look like a styleless plain jayne. Whats not immediately obvious unless you talk to me, is that fact that i workout to try and stave away the fatness, i have my hair coloured to complement my skin tone better and to hide the greys, i get my eyebrows tinted so they match my hair colour. I care about my grooming, but these are things not many people notice.

  • Claire - Like quiet, I’m working on my PhD, and I’ve noticed most students (not all) don’t put the extra effort into their appearance. I really try (some days at least) but I’ve noticed that some people seem to think this is somehow in conflict with being a good student. I got a comment on my boots once, something to the effect that it put me in the same category as vapid undergrad girls. It irks me a little, but I’m not going to stop trying. I look up to the girl who forged through our program in the minimal number of years while looking fabulous. She’s certainly not vapid, and certainly not “above” dressing like she cares.

  • purpleshoes - I think the root is misogyny, honestly – a lot of women have internalized the idea that super feminine ways of dressing or behaving are linked to other feminine stereotypes like Bad at Math. I certainly struggle with that – I am not comfortable with super decorative, revealing, or attention-grabbing clothes, and I tend to have a kneejerk, get-thee-away-from-me-Macy’s approach to fashion. And I defend people’s right not to have to be pretty – I think that’s a prerequisite for redeeming feminine clothing, that it’s a choice and an interest, like ice hockey or gardening. I suspect the reason some people push back so hard against fashion is because they feel like it’s near-mandatory.
    At the same time, I don’t think looking down on women for being interested in fashion and appearance/aesthetics of dress can be anything but misogynistic, given how gendered the activity is historically. If you think something is inherently dumb for no better reason then it’s traditionally something women do, that’s sexist.

  • Tasia - Ah, good post! How unfair is it to think that because someone enjoys getting dressed, and has fun with their personal style, that they must not be as smart, or as career-minded. We SHOULD be able to have both if we desire.
    I also work with almost all women, however it’s a very open dress code. We don’t have the “office-appropriate-but-boring” thing happening here, and I’m really grateful for it!
    I wouldn’t consider myself overly concerned about my appearance, but I have fun getting dressed. I like tossing on a brightly coloured dress and heels for work, or accessorizing a plain look with a vintage scarf or jewelry. It’s more about freedom and feeling good, and less about trying to look perfect for me.

  • Spooky Girl - I never wear make up to work – sometimes I just potter about in plain skirts and plain tops and other days in my (toned down) gothy skirts and frills.
    It’s down to my mood on the day, as long as it’s within the office-appropriate vibe.
    I don’t think the point raised even stops at brains V beauty – most people make some kind of judgement based on how people look generally.
    It’s a very human thing, for good or bad.
    The best thing to do is as you guys say – not allow that to influence how you treat a person and understand that the opinions of good friends and your loved ones are the important ones.

  • Marybeth - I don’t always put a lot of effort into my appearance, but I really admire women who do and often think I should try a little harder myself. I kind of think that people take you more seriously when you look polished and pretty. You definitely seem more confident when you feel like you look good. Besides, let’s get real, would anybody take Hilary Clinton seriously if she looked sloppy?

  • Jacqui - you should see Quentin Bryce the govenor general of Australia, she has it all a law degree – QC i think then the first female govenor general of Australia 5 children and a style Icon. She shows up our female primeminister handsdown Will try to find the picture of them together with Quentin looking gorgeous in a Yellow trench dress and Julia looking average in a mans suit

  • Rachel - Interesting post! In relation to what Jacqui has said about the Australian political scene – it is a massive pity that our PM, Julia Gillard is constantly compared in a negative sense to female political figures who are perceived as being more stylish – i.e., Quentin Bryce and Michelle Obama. If Ms Gillard does a good job as PM, and achieves inroads in the gender equality battle (and other relevant issues), then I don’t think it matters a stitch if she is wearing a man’s suit or a paper bag. Women should not be judged as competent, smart, or able on the basis of their outward appearance. I think Marybeth is right about the ‘sloppy’ issue, which I think is what Sunni is referring to, but if you want to wear a man suit, why not?
    I personally like to look nice (my version of it, anyway – vintage styles, heels, make up etc), and be perceived as intelligent. I have a PhD in criminology and constantly battle with being judged for being young, or attractive, or both. Or being married when also a feminist, undertaking feminist work (My research is on the police response to rape). Or sewing, baking, cooking, cleaning etc when being a feminist. We should be judged for who we are, and our actions. And if we want to wear heels and make up – and also if we don’t – then we should bloody well be able to without being cast as somehow less then men.
    (I’ll get off my soapbox now :-)

  • Rachel - I enjoyed reading your post- it got me thinking a lot about how I’ve presented myself over the years and why. I’ve always admired your style and, back when I got to see you everyday, it was always fun to see what you’d be wearing that day. At that stage of my life I was more in the “who cares” camp when it came to my clothes- although I would do up my hair each day. I really think it was mostly because I never really learned how to dress myself. All through High School I wanted to look like the “cute” girls, but could never really pull it off. By the time I went to college I had gone to the other extreme and had convinced myself that I would get by on my brains instead of how I looked. That didn’t really work for me either. I would never look down on others for their appearance, but was impressed when they knew how they wanted to present themselves to others and they know how to do that! When I started teaching I wanted to look more “professional” but I also didn’t want to look like the steriotypical teacher (I worked with many- brightly colored sweater vests and all) with no fasion sense. My biggest problem was that I had no money so was stuck trying to look better in frumpy old clothes that were too big for me (I also went through a phase where I thought I’d be more comfortable wearing clothes that were 2 sizes too big).
    Slowly I started learning about how to wear make-up, what kind of clothes looked good on me, and that I always felt better about myself when I took the time to do my hair, put on make-up, and find the perfect outfit.
    For those of us who were never gifted in the ways of fashion, I don’t think it’s so much that we don’t care about looking good, but don’t really know how to so decide that maybe it’s not worth the effort and we’ll focus more on other things instead. I dont know if this makes any sense, but thank you for always being an inspiration for wanting to look good and knowing how to do it!

  • Ana - I have swanky days and don’t-give-a-fart days, depending on how I feel in the morning. But swanky or not, I do think in a working environment clothes should be appropriate, like please keep your chest within your top, and no, I don’t need to see your drawers when you bend over, and oh dear, are you really wearing polyester jersey trousers again? Perhaps someone should make signs…

  • juebejue - this is a really great thought! I am an engineer working in mostly guys who come to work in tshirts. I would feel self conscious about dressing up and i didnt want people to think of me that way. but slowly i realised — i dress to express myself, and i am not just a nerdy engineer :) if i feel comfortable in my outfits, then who cares about what others think?
    also, i think the most smartest and successful woman should care the most about their appearances!

  • Abby - I was once told by a former boyfriend that I looked Ok, but that I was more of a “personality” kind of girl. I still have no idea if that was a complement or a “you have a face for radio” type comment. Hmmm.

  • Abby - haha! Compliment with an i not an e, while we’re on the topic of smarts V. beauty. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression here. haha!

  • Sigrid - It’s hard for people to accept that women can have both beauty and brains, but even harder for them to accept that an intelligent woman might want to concern herself with style. I think some women act dumb and dress well to seem more attractive– thus we equate the fashionable with the vacuous., Likewise a women in an intellectual field often has to seem uninterested in fashion and beauty to be taken seriously. When women are both and we can’t be placed in a neat box– some people get confused. That should be their problem.

  • Jen - It’s a bit of a misnomer that Marilyn was a bimbo. It’s something she was tagged with due to the parts she took, but she was married to Arthur Miller. I can’t imagine he would marry a complete idiot. She was also fond of reading, so…
    Though I take care with my appearance, dressing vintage all of the time, I’m far from stupid and used to write about politics, economics, and current events before getting sick. (In fact, I get a lot of reading done in the AM with a book or current events magazine in front of me while I fix up my hair!) My sister, on the other hand, is a ‘who cares’ type about 80% of the time, and she’s bright, too. We all know what they say about books and covers!
    I’m not sure why women must be sort of plain (or even ugly) & brilliant or pretty & stupid…I think Sigrid has it, really, “an intelligent woman might want to concern herself with style”. It must surprise people or be difficult for them to believe. (Ana’s comment cracked me up, though, I feel the same way!)
    I also wonder if the fact that a lot of well-known starlets are beautiful & of course very fashionable, but sometimes reveal themselves to be a bit vapid (not all of them, but enough of them). That and the idea that a woman with brains and beauty is, of course, quite a threat in many respects. Ultimately, it pays great dividends to just be kind to people without treating them poorly whether they are groomed with every hair and eyelash in place or apparently in the ‘who cares’ category. It won’t hurt us or anybody else.

  • KP - You definitely have BOTH brains and beauty. You see, that’s why we’re friends. You know I don’t deal well with dumb or ugly people.

  • Jude - I’m going to throw the cultural question into this mix. And, as you’ll see, I think it’s less a male/female question than it is a sense of self-respect and self-pride.
    Last night, I had a coffee date with a man who showed up in lavender Crocs. He thought it was quite a joke.
    I was really, bothered by this. I’d come straight from work, so I was dressed nicely in a skirt. I live in a resort area, so I wasn’t dressed in a business suit, but I had made an extra effort to look nice, and I’d even applied nail polish before I left the office.
    And, because I like to think that I wouldn’t judge someone simply on the basis of what he wore, today I’ve been wondering why the purple shoes made such a bad impression on me. I finally realized what it was — I felt that the man in question hadn’t made an effort to show what Italians call bella figura.
    As the child of a man who didn’t speak English until he went to school, I grew up with this Italian concept. It’s a little complicated, but it involves the way you present yourself to the world. Italy is known for its sense of style, but bella figura is less about being trendy or dandified — it’s more a sense of what’s appropriate and proper. For example, when I attended high school, everyone was wearing torn jeans. My parents would never have allowed this, because it didn’t show proper respect for education. It would have been mala figura. Even now, I would never leave the house without being properly groomed and presentable. No matter where I go, I don’t ever want to feel embarrassed to have someone see me. (So, yes, I’m in a constant state of shock at what other people wear in public.)
    And I guess that’s what I felt about the man I met last night. He showed mala figura, not bella figura. A bad figure, not a good figure.
    I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but a few here have mentioned starlets being considered dumb because they’re beautiful and well-dressed. Well, consider these examples: Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn. They all have bella figura, and dumb is not the word that comes to mind. Here are the words I think of: poise, grace, confidence.

  • Jude - I’ve continued to think about what I wrote above, and I just wanted to add something.
    The purple Crocs. Apparently, his daughter gave them to him as a laugh, and he wears them clamming (remember, this is Cape Cod). I’m not a complete Priss. If we were at the beach or on the water, I’d get a good chuckle out of him being a character of sorts.
    But wearing them for an initial impression? In my cultural background, that’s not showing dignity.
    And I think that brings us back around to your initial question, particularly the woman at your office who seems to sniff at your concern about your appearance. This is simply a difference in values. Not right. Not wrong. Just different.
    I grew up here in New England, where I encountered many old Yankee values. I remember a coworker laughing at me because I was wearing a slip, and, as she proclaimed, she hadn’t worn one since high school. My thought (to myself of course) was “and she’s proud of that?” I guess it goes to my philosophy of life, beautifully summed up by my favorite movie, “Moonstruck.” When Olivia Dukakis is invited do something that’s inappropriate, she demurs, because, she says, “I know who I am.”
    So, there, Sunni. Continue to do your best AND have a brain. Because you know who you are.

  • amelie - Oh yes i have felt just like you before. A few years back i was not as cautious about my looks. Sewing somehow got me more self-conscious about fashion, makeup, hair style, etc. My husband has noticed this and actually likes it i think.
    I suspect he married me for my brain but is happy i try to work a bit more on beauty ;o)

  • Dori - I know this is late, but I came across this blog and wanted to tell you that I understand you 100%. I work in a male dominated field (i.e. engineering) and I deal with it all the time. I consider myself a decent looking girl, but in areas where I work, I’m considered a “pretty engineer” as opposed to the nerdy stereotypical type. It’s extremely frustrating because customers who meet with me the first time usually never take what I have to say seriously. They tend to assume that I don’t know what I’m talking about and almost always want to have a second opinion, which usually ends up with them agreeing with what I said initially.
    On the other hand, I’ve dealt with the opposite as well. During a summer in college, I roomed with 2 fashion majors and a nursing major. They were all very nice people, but because I was an engineering student, they never thought to ask me for my opinion on fashion and style. I mean, I didn’t dress as fashionable as they did at the time, but that was because I didn’t have the means to be fashionable. It just would have been nice to be included in their conversations.

Stitching Spotlights 7.9.2010

Can you feel it? The days are already getting shorter. I love these mid-summer nights that start blending into early Fall. Sorry for the short absence. Things on my end have been a bit trying. We had a layoff at work and it was someone who was close to me and a good friend. Grrrrhhhh… I just hate stuff like that. I hope those types of things aren’t happening where you are. On a happier note, I’m in awe of this lovely number from Gertie.

It’s stunning! She’s got the perfect fit and the sweep and style of the skirt is just fabulous. It looks so fabulously put together and chic. I’m in love with that luscious color on her too! Ahhhh! I can’t say enough wonderful things about this creation! Gertie, you take the cake!

I’ve been following The Sew Weekly in my Google Reader and hadn’t noticed anything come through for awhile. I decided to check out Mena’s blog to see if something was up and she’s been posting all sorts of fun and I haven’t even seen them. I saw this and fell in love with the sweetness of it. And Kudos! for the name, Mena! The Pin-Up Board – Hardy Har Har! Love it! I’ve re-imported her blog into my reader and I think it should be working fine now. If you’ve noticed this, you might want to try re-importing as well, her stuff is just way to good to miss.

I’ve heard so much about the Burda Style book that I’m starting get antsy about it. All of the fun folks who are apart of it will have top-notch things to offer, I’m sure. Can you believe that we have to wait to Fall 2011 to have it in our hands?

Have a very happy weekend, with lots of sewing!

  • oonaballoona - rats! when i saw the burdastyle pic at the end i thought you wee doing a variation too! you would come up with something FABULOUS.

  • Gertie - Aw shucks! Thanks for the mention! I love Mena’s pin up board too. So sweet!

Ode to a Ham

A Tailor’s Ham to be exact. I was finally able to find and get my hands on some sawdust to fill a Tailor’s Ham with. Local sawdust in fact. I know, so silly to be so excited about sawdust. I’ve been wanting to make my own tailor’s ham and seam roll for awhile now and have just never mustered up the energy to go and get the tools necessary to make them. Those perfectly adequate hams and rolls you buy from the fabric store are well, adequate. I wanted something more….luxurious and colorful. Ha ha ha.

Sawdust is rather interesting when stuffed into a ham or roll. It acts as a natural absorber of moisture, not to mention it has more weight than that poly stuffing you would normally find in one of these pressing aids. I was so thrilled with my findings and with the ham and roll I made for myself, I decided to make some for the shop. I’ve made a few sets and also some for individual sale as well. Can I also say, that looking at them makes me so happy too. They are so much more colorful and exciting than the boring ones you buy at the fabric store. I have loads of various colored wool and cotton fabrics. My favorite is the orange wool combo above, but then again I LOVE orange! They are simply splendid to use. Simply splendid. In fact, they kind of make you want to actually press as your sewing up that silk dress and such.

I made little bags of sawdust to go with each Tailor’s Ham and Seam Roll purchase too, because sawdust will naturally compact after about a week of use. Just unpick the handstitched opening, pack in some sawdust spoonfuls and stitch back up.

And that is my ode to a ham. Enjoy!

  • Jennifer - They are so cute! I don’t have a ham, but I plan to get one sometime in the future. How fun to have a colorful one instead of that ugly red plaid.

  • Susan - Nice! I went to my dad’s house last week to get some sawdust out of his workshop to make my own ham. I’m glad I waited because I didn’t think to put a little hanging loop on it. I’ll copy that on mine, if you don’t mind!

  • Tasia - So cool! Your ham and seam roll are delightful! I actually caved and bought a ham this weekend but I wish I’d waited, your handmade versions are so much prettier!

  • Angela - How awesome!! I think the store bought ones are so blah… yours are too cute… I absolutely love them!

  • The Cupcake Goddess - Of course not! I think it’s a great idea, because then you can hang it up and out of the way when it’s not in use. And it comes in handy when you are pressing too.

  • The Cupcake Goddess - Thank you! They are so sweet to press with, I must say!

  • Cherri Porter - I love the new photo. And, the hams are so great. I will have you know that although I sell on Etsy, it was my first official purchase. (My husband bought me a Skunkboy, but this was the first thing I bought for me.) Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop and I bought a map pendant after that. Good think I was teaching so my fingers were busy elsewhere or I may have kept buying.

  • peter - Envy! I can’t believe you make your own hams. They look great.

  • Jasonda - What cute hams! Now I want to make one with Japanese piggy fabric. :)

Stitching Spotlights 6.25.2010

Summer is beginning to settle in around here. It brings to mind a trip to Europe I took a few years ago. With that brings yearnings for sandals, long walks along a dirt road with fields of sunflowers on each side of me, long bohemian skirts and billowy silk tops and extra creamy italian ice cream. I can almost taste it…

This week’s spotlighted creation comes from Petite Josette. This is just one of her creations. She creates beautiful clothing in such a tasteful way. I just came across some of her creations on Burda Style and was completely blown away. The photographs of her creations are so inspiring too! I simply love her style and the way she gives her creations a little pizazz with her wonderful accessories, like here, with her black tie. Simple, sleek and sexy.

And just look at what Jennifer made! The most darling ironing board cover from my “How to Make an Ironing Board Cover” tutorial. It’s a good idea to go over and have read at what she says about the “breathability” of the cotton cover as opposed to the “non-breathable” covers that typically come from the store. I also loved the fact that even though she’s relatively new to sewing, she gave this tutorial a try and found it to be easy and useful for future sewing projects! It’s the sweetest ironing board cover ever Jennifer! Kudos!

Two really amazing giveaways came through my reader this week and I suppose it’s only fair that I fill you in. It’s a little hard not to get really excited and keep this kind of stuff to myself. Make sure you enter Grosgrain’s giveaway for this amazing Streamer Frock! Oh I want it so badly! The perfect dress for summer. And don’t forget to head on over to Gertie’s Blog for her anniversary giveaway. She’s giving away two $25 gift certificates to Colette Patterns. And hurry up! because Gertie’s giveaway ends tonight at midnight eastern time!

Happy Weekending!

  • Jennifer - Ahhh! Thanks for putting my ironing board cover in your stitching spotlight! It is a great tutorial! I am singing it’s praises everywhere now! :)

  • Stacyverb - I need to make my own ironing board cover! My old one was looking gross, so I took it off to wash it, and the drawstring broke. Now I can’t get it back on, booooo. Thanks for the tutorial!

  • Tasia - I made an ironing board cover once, my sister has it now…
    Jennifer picked an awesome fabric for hers! And thanks for unselfishly sharing the giveaways with us :)
    Have a fantastic weekend!

  • Kristin P. - I need to stop being a bum and break out the sewing machine. I keep telling myself I’ll do it tomorrow. I really need a “breathable” ironing board cover though, so I’ll seriously contemplate making one tomorrow. ; ) More realistically, it’ll probably be at least a month or so.

  • Abby - Oh my that is the cutes est est ironing board cover I’ve ever seen! I love it! Drat! I missed the giveaway!