Manifest dress-tiny: sewing for your personal style

Gillian top by People Tree; Stone Hex earrings and Beaded Prism bracelet, By Boe; No. 2 Pencil Skirt in poppy by J. Crew; Holepunch Sidewalk Skimmers by Madewell

All of my major sewing projects have been on the back burner because it's been a gorgeous summer and I'd rather be running or drinking cocktails or coming up with awful puns. But I do want to focus on creating some wardrobe staples this fall. Skirts, blouses, and dress or two are all on the trajectory, and I want to make sure that the pieces I make will actually get worn. 

Tilly (of the Buttons) just wrote up a piece on sewing for your style, which provides some excellent tips on creating pieces that you feel comfortable in. She points out the tendency of new sewists to get a little overly-enthusiastic when it comes to designing a wardrobe:

Learning to make your own clothes opens up such a wonderful world of sartorial possibilities...

...Yet sometimes the sheer number of different combinations of colours, fabrics, patterns and embellishments can become overwhelming. When I first started sewing, I got a bit overexcited at the possibilities that were suddenly available to me. Many of the things I made back then sadly no longer get worn - they just don't feel totally me.

This is definitely a pattern I've noticed in myself -- not only when I got into sewing, but when I started exploring more ethical fashion options in general. Right now, most ethical brands have a pretty set aesthetic, and it veers towards the muted, the tribal, the organic, the flowing and unstructured. And as much as I like these looks, they're not exactly me. I don't look great in earth tones. I crave structure (both in my clothing and in my life). I like the cheeky sophistication of Marc Jacobs, the extreme girliness of Betsey Johnson, the new wave chic of Prada -- all cut with a littleSoCal beachiness.

So, like we all do, I combine pieces from various brands (ethical when possible) to do my own thing. Sometimes it works. Sometimes I fail miserably. But I find that usually the fails result from trying too hard to emulate a particular brand or aesthetic. In my experience, my favorite outfits come from a process of "I like this. I like this. Hey, they match! Well at least kind of!" The outfit above is a close approximation of one I put together recently -- a day that I felt decidedly me

My goal now is to analyze those serendipitous magical outfits and figure out what elements make them so special and wearable. Tilly suggested creating a mood board to capture color palettes, textures, style icons, etc. So that's what I did...