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Best Clothing of 2020 (Me Made)

Top - Bobbinhood Kids Crewneck (Free) /  Pants - Hacked McCall's 7610

     Almost a year ago to the day, I sat down to try and sew my first piece of clothing, turned on my sewing machine, forgot that since I bought it in the States it wasn't the right voltage and then promptly heard a loud pop, followed by the lights in our apartment going out, since I had tripped the circuit breaker. I thought the machine was dead (it's not like I could plug it in again to see if it was still operational) and it felt like the sewing gods were really raining on my parade. A few days later + a voltage transformer I plugged in the machine again and was delighted to find out that only the lightbulb on the machine was blown, and the rest seemed to be working fine. I then sat down and made my first piece of clothing: a laughably bad skirt (sadly I only have the one photo and no pictures of the inside - also please note that one sad button). I knew it was rough but was so psyched that I even styled it and sent a picture to my friends (who still receive way too many photos of my clothes and are continuously supportive). Afterward I watched a few hours of sewing videos and a few days later tried again. The second one was a lot better (and looked a hell of a lot closer to the picture on the pattern).

      I've basically sewn something almost every week since. I've repurposed most of my early (really bad) projects into fabric for testers, linings, pockets etc. but I've kept a few things to remind me of how far I've come. I'm really proud of what I've been able to learn the last year and am so glad I started learning to sew in the age of the internet. With minimal comment, here are some of the projects that I was most excited about or were otherwise important to me over the last year. 

Best Clothing Purchases of 2020 (RTW)

Coclico Sandals
Max Mara Blazer & Citizens of Humanity Jeans (both secondhand), Coclico sandals
If you'll kindly allow me to put on my clothing tunnel-vision goggles for a moment, I thought I'd look through my list and see what my favorite clothing purchases of the year were, as divided into two categories: ready-to-wear and me-made. Today is ready-to-wear (and if you want to travel to years past I have best & worst/superlatives from 2019, 2017 and 2016). 
1. Outdoor Voices Hudson Skort (not an affiliate link) 
     Without a doubt my most worn item of the year was this skort, purchased in January 2020 in size small. I have two actually, one in navy and one in black and I wear them weekly, although honestly probably more like 2-3 days a week. I don't have a ton of photos in them, probably because they are a little more understated/everyday, so here's some love to the wardrobe workhorses. The skirt, made out of leggings material, has a pair of attached shorts underneath, with a phone-sized side pocket on the shorts and a zip pocket on the front of the skirt. They are easy to wear in the heat, the built in shorts make me feel comfortable to wear them when I'm out zipping around on my e-scooter or playing golf and with the pockets I can often go purse free to run errands. This is also currently number one with a bullet on the list of things I'd love to be able to sew for myself. 
Outdoor Voices Review
Left: Levi's jean jacket and Bally purse (both secondhand)
Right: Me made top, Finding Nemo bandaid

Tie a Bow on It

Vogue Jumpsuit
Earrings are Banana Republic from 2016

     When I first saw this jumpsuit pattern I knew I had to make it (pattern photo is at the end of the post). It is semi-naked, has pockets, and felt like it would be the perfect garment to vote in. I was right, it was! (For me that basically meant sitting at a computer thousands of miles away but I was pleased I was able to figure out the citizen abroad voter registration, at all.)  The pattern is the Vogue 1708 and, annoyingly, only available in paper pattern form, so I picked it up the last time I was in the States. Also, as an aside, instructions on the "Big 4" patterns (Simplicity, Vogue, Butterick and McCalls) don't always make a lot of sense to me. It could be that if I had more of a traditional sewing education (instead of mostly YouTube) they would, but I find I struggle with them and there are NO additional aids (real photos, videos, sew-a-longs) which seem to come standard on indie patterns. This Vogue pattern is also almost DOUBLE the cost of an indie pattern, but, you know, no one forced me buy it, so, I digress.  
     I was adamant that I wanted to make it in a bold print fabric, like the model on the pattern. I ended up scouring my local fabric haunts and nothing jumped out at me. This jumpsuit requires just under 5 meters of fabric for the outside AND the lining (so almost 10 in total) and every time I saw a fabric I liked I tried to imagine wearing 10 meters of it and it killed the vibe. Enter this clipped dot linen/cotton blend fabric. The dots give it a little personality and, even though I'm sure I'll stain this almost immediately, the light color and fabric make this feel desert appropriate. 

The Sew Flow

Self sewn: mask, dress and bag
Jacket: Secondhand Levi's
Shoes: Coclico

     I guess this is just a sewing blog for the moment. Over the last few months I have thrown myself into sewing. Partially because I was still mostly living that indoor lifestyle, between Covid and the harsh summer heat here. The other part is that I have fallen in love with it. It is meditative, creative and fun. 
     In the image at the top, I sewed the mask, the dress and the bag and was pretty pleased with myself at how the outfit came together. Below are some of the inspiration photos for the dress. One is an image I saw online somewhere and the other was the window display at Carolina Herrera. I made my dress out of quilting cotton and when I saw that rich blue color I knew it would be prefect. I used the McCalls pattern M7948 as my base pattern, in View C and added pockets. I also left out the small opening in the back of the neck because it could slide over my head without it. This wasn't my first attempt at this dress (I first sewed it in the fabric that I also used to make the mask above) and in the next version I'm thinking of adding a fourth tier, but not necessarily making it longer. I particularly love the billowly silhouette and think the dress is best in motion. I don't have any great photos where I'm not standing still but I'm determined to get an "action" shot of it. 

Sustainable What? Part 1

Self sewn Clyde jumpsuit from the recently released Elizabeth Suzann patterns
Backpack: Clare V Agnes
     I sat down to write about a jumpsuit and over 1,300 words later I instead have this post and nothing about the jumpsuit, so more about that garment will come in a to-be-written Part 2.  
      Back in April of 2013, a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed resulting in the injury of over 2,500 people and the death of over 1,000. You might have read about the Rana Plaza collapse, either at the time or in one of the many think pieces written about it since then, calling into question the true price of fast fashion. Several well known brands did business with this factory, including Primark, Zara, Mango and Walmart. The building had been deemed unsafe and yet garment workers were sent back into the factory to keep production going. 
     At the time I was living in New York and a good part of my clothing was made up of fast fashion purchases. I was developing an interest in learning where my clothing was made, and by whom (which was then and is now still surprisingly hard to discern as there is a real lack of transparency from brands), as well as having more disposable income than I had had in the past and I remember Rana Plaza making a big impression on me. Starting in 2014 I began tracking my clothing purchases in a spreadsheet, so I could get a better idea of what I purchased and from where. It wasn't driven by ethical concerns, exactly, but rather to help me answer questions I didn't know the answer to. How much money was I spending in a year? Were the clothes new or used? How long did the clothes I buy last? How happy was I with those purchases after a year or two? 
     This practice has helped me significantly reduce new fast fashion from my life. Ethical concerns aside the pieces often didn't make the grade: falling apart more quickly or having poorer fit or more uncomfortable fabrics. It has also caused me to more deeply grapple with the idea of sustainability and fashion. The design, production, manufacturing, marketing, and selling of clothes has costs and I believe that when clothes are cheap for me the consumer, it does not mean that those clothes are in fact "cheap", instead it just means that someone else in the supply chain is paying the price in order for them to be that way. 

DIY: Sir the Label Dress

DIY Aramis Dress
Made the mask too.
Oolala. That's how I feel in this dress, which I finished sewing last weekend. It is made out of a luxurious deep green linen and while the dark color and floor-length skirt make it look formal in photos I think it looks more daytime appropriate in person. (Plus you can't tell this but I'm wearing it with white sneakers.) It started, as a surprising number of things do these days, with an Instagram ad. The ad was from Sir the Label, a new-to-me Australian brand whose romantic, skin-bearing dresses instantly caught my eye. However, the dress this is based on, the Aramis, retails for $480 (oddly enough in both USD and AUD) so that wasn't going to happen. Plus, their version has no pockets (that I can discern) so I figured this was a great candidate for a DIY. 
DIY Sir the Label

DIY: Ulla Johnson Skirt

DIY Ulla Johnson Skirt
I also whipped up this top out of some scrap fabric, but it has since been cut up for use in other projects.
     I'm pretty darn excited because I made this skirt ::pumps fist circularly and makes a wooing noise:: This is one of the first items I've tried to make where I didn't have a pattern and was basing it on a photo. This photo, in case you are wondering:
Ulla Johnson, RTW 2020
    You'll notice that in the photo, the garment in question is a dress, whereas mine is a skirt. While the skirt came together in a relatively straightforward manner, that was not the case with the bodice. I tried to struggle through it before I figured the garment was trying to tell me something and I should stop banging my head against the wall turning what was apparently meant to be a skirt into a dress (plus, skirts are so versatile). I had purchased 5 meters of cloth, thinking that would be enough (it was not), so I barely had enough to make my first attempt at the bodice and nothing left for a do-over. Also (and I acknowledge that this is a bit of a false comparison) this skirt cost me about $20 in fabric (plus two days of my time) whereas the Ulla Johnson one is closer to $800. No doubt it is much better made and the fabric is probably nicer but still!

Confront Our History

The last few weeks have been especially horrifying, inspiring, depressing and hopeful. I think that if you are looking for anything from resources to book recommendations to organizations or BIPOC businesses to support then a quick Google search will yield more helpful results than I can provide. 

I did however want to highlight two items, both of which really resonated with me:

Have a good weekend, thanks for stopping by.

Sew Sew

     How are you? I haven't felt like writing much recently because I don't know where to start. I'm pretty comfortable saying that I know how I feel about this global pandemic. It's assured me that my emotions are very much functioning, as they have run the gamut over the last month. However, what I am still trying to figure out is how to think about this global pandemic. How to come up with a thesis or a framework. Not having one makes it difficult to process the crushing amount of information that you could consume, daily. All of that to say, I don't have any answers, mostly questions, but I hope you are doing alright.
     When I want to fully concentrate on something else, I have been turning to sewing, which is a new hobby for me. My mom is a talented quilter and sewer (sewist?) and she taught me the basics of the sewing machine when I was young. However, I promptly forgot everything and didn't really engage with sewing until a year or so ago when I attended a 3 hour sewing workshop a friend got me for Christmas. I loved it so much that I bought a sewing machine that week (I have the Janome 2212) and made myself a few lackluster pillows. I didn't have a lot of space in my apartment then for setting up the machine, so I didn't sew much at all. Jump to January of this year, where with a bigger space and more free time I decided to tackle sewing clothes from patterns. The same friend (which btw Jess, I'm so glad you seem to get me every year in Secret Santa) got me a Bluprint subscription and so I watched a few tutorials about how to use a pattern and other basics and I was off. 

Johanna Ortiz x H&M Review

Johanna Ortiz Review
    In minor, lighthearted, low-stakes news, the full Johanna Ortiz collection dropped at H&M today and I'm going to review it. I felt a little torn about this because for the last few years I've been moving away from buying from any fast fashion brands and otherwise would try to only buy H&M secondhand. On the other hand, I'm a long time Johanna Ortiz fan (my first JO dress) and want to support her collection to help it be a commercial success. If you don't know her, Johanna Ortiz is a Colombian designer (read a profile here) whose clothes I always think of as colorful, flirty and expensive. I feel like 3 years ago I remember her dresses retailing for around $1,000 (still too expensive for me but I bought secondhand or otherwise heavily reduced - they often appear on TheRealReal.com) but recently I've been seeing them retailing for closer to $1,500-$2,500. In this collab, nothing that I saw is over $70. 
     I was curious to see what she would do with H&M and what the quality of the pieces would be. Obviously, the fabrics are going to be different from what is in her normal collections. As a petite lady I also always appreciated that her sizing ran a little smaller and was curious if that would carry through in the collection. My thoughts are woven throughout below, but my overall impression was positive. I think there are a few items where fit was sort of strange (on me at least - and I'll point it out below) but that otherwise I thought it was a cute and well-done collection for the price. Most of the dresses had pockets, a few were lined and a lot of them had cute details like semi-open backs or covered buttons. 

This is what I tried on:

2020 Challenge

     I've been trying to figure out what I want to focus on for 2020, closet-wise, and I think I finally have my answer. Recently, I pulled some clothes out of a storage bin and was surprised there were a few pieces in there that I love but hadn't thought about recently. I've been passively mulling over the idea of wearing every piece in my closet at least once over the next year and then seeing this post about it by Feather Factor was the last push I needed - I'm doing it!
Jacket from 2017, but otherwise just wanted to throw this up here so there is a photo in the post.
     I think it'll be a fun way to get reacquainted with my closet and also be a way to assess if there are some things that I need to let go of. I initially hesitated because I know there are some pieces I'll have to reckon with and also because part of me was worried I have more clothes than there are days of the year, which isn't something I needed confirmed. I did some quick math and while that isn't the case, I am definitely not living that capsule wardrobe life. Since I want this to be fun, this is how I'm going to do it: