The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

An Interesting Perspective

An interesting perspective crossed my desk this morning when I read this blog.  It’s very confusing for me.

I grew up in a time in which it was a given to look well-groomed and put together well.


I mean, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t like to have any of these outfits?  I remember making Lauren Bacall’s Designing Woman’s dress (middle) – and still have the blouse today – it’s soooooo gorgeous!


And then the early 60’s – a revolution is starting, but still great and classic clothes.


And the 60’s continued with a revolution made classic – these looks are all classic.  Who could forget Jackie K’s pink Chanel suit (it was in Dallas if that gives you a clue).

1970sThe 1970’s were a mish-mash which led to a more defined style, but there was still design elements used and there was still shape and beauty (left to right: accent on hips with belt, accent on hip/waist, accent on bust, accent on bust).  There was a featured part of every style.

Then the 80’s – which is when I was apprenticing under my mentor:


OMG – can we tawk!!!  I followed all the grand dames of New York Society, the fashion of W, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country and could do all these designs. They were gorgeous, and the fabrics that were out were the most glorious and most spectacular I could imagine.

This was probably my heyday and loved every minute of it.  I was running with the crowd that shopped at all the local boutiques and paying full retail, which I was using some of the same if not better fabrics and taking some of the designers’ looks and making them my own.  People just got used to knowing that I did these on my own.  The minute these came out, I had the pattern drafted and in days had it on my back, before it was even in the stores.



At the time there was a show on CNN – on Saturday mornings (repeated during the weekend and sometimes during the week very late at night).

I was passionate devotee as she walked through all the latest fashion shows as I would record them and rerun them over and over so I could get just the right read on all the show.  Eventually I would record and keep the major designers.



Then came the 90’s.  Honestly my heart was broken as all sort of beauty, fashion sense, good grooming and just the desire to want to look nice went out the window.  From Polly Mellen’s quote: “Ugly is the new beautiful,” to the rated and torn designs, I didn’t understand it, and truthfully didn’t really want to.

I knew that the cycles of fashion, and knew that each new trend in fashion revolts against the previous trend – like the hippy movement was revolt to the very strict styles of the 50’s, and the beautiful opulent style of the 90’s was a revolt against the peasant-y style of the 80’s, but this 90’s – it was like nothing I’d seen….Ugly WAS the new beautiful – and I never got it.

I started my career designing beautiful formal clothes, and folks didn’t want to pay me to make something that was torn, ragged or otherwise ugly looking, so I mostly designed things based on the Audrey Hepburn/Hubert de Givenchy look which was classic and beautiful.  And my business flourished, as folks didn’t want that rough look for formal clothes.  I designed them to be classic and to be worn again and again.

So I’m at a loss when folks don’t want to look nice – don’t want to look well-grooomed, and when they are encouraged to wear colors, styles, shapes and sizes that do not look good on them.  I would like to believe that it’s actually because they don’t know rather than something that’s done intentional so as to make oneself look uglier than one is.

I agree that you don’t have to have the beauty of a Marilyn Monroe or the latest model du jour.  This is a photo of Diana Vreeland the grand dame of fashion magazine editors; editor  from 1963-1971, and she is certainly not anyone who you would consider beautiful.  And yet she was the doyenne of fashion and style and literally dictated what was in and out for almost a decade during a most revolutionary time.

So that’s not what I’m saying.  What I’m saying is that to set out to allow yourself to either drift into a sloppy or ugly style is not really anything worth searching after or for that matter to allow.

I disagree that allowing yourself to wear colors that don’t look good on you is OK.  If you are in love with blue and must wear it, but have a ruddy, red-headed  complexion, then wear it away from your face or as an accent and know that it will not go with much of the clothes that do enhance your coloring in your wardrobe.  If you have to wear orange, but you have peaches and cream complexion, do the same thing – wear it as an accent or away from your face.  It doesn’t mean that you have to NOT wear these colors, you just wear them with discretion.

And I also don’t believe that pretty is trendy or passes with fashion.  It may be defined as something different but it still remains with in the parameters of beauty and something to be honored and positive goal.  You don’t have to know or be obsessed with it.  You don’t have to make it your daily or hourly or minute by minute rule of law.

But the guides and designs are not the problem here.  In the 80’s there was a section in the fashion magazines of “Fashion Victims” and I agree that these were indeed a warping of the trends and fashion guidelines of the day.  This is like everything in life – moderation is truly the best way.

And being pretty does not mean that you throw away your own guidelines and the styles that have worked for you – this is part of developing your own style – a style that is yours – it is your look – it is your feel, and something that should be encouraged and nurtured.

But throwing the idea of being pretty out with searing for your own style and look is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.  You don’t have to do it, and certainly isn’t something you want to do.

I love watching my students develop their own styles and envision their own looks and watch them complete those visions and turn them into reality.  Each one of them has their own interpretation of beauty and pretty, which they all interpret differently and with their own stamp.  This isn’t a cookie-cutter rule that works for everyone – that’s what artistry and the inspiration, encouragement and nurturing of artistry is all about, particularly when it refers to something as artistic as sewing!


Some of my students and their style – as you can see they are all different and they are all pretty in their own way.

  1. Well said! Being stylish is about more than just fasion; it’s about feeling good in your own skin, giving yourself a boost, and showing off your confidence. I would rather be over-dressed than under-dressed any day of the week!

  2. I was a teenager in the ’90s, and I agree: some of the clothes were just awful. Loose-fitting jeans, flannel shirts, sloppy blouses and t-shirts…just ugly, but that was all part of the grunge movement, which was just another reaction to the well-groomed and well-dressed standards of the day. However, grunge fashion generally lacked the creativity of the hippies and the punks of previous generations. I am NOT nostalgic for it at all!

    That said, one of the ’90s trends I adored was the sweet floral dress. Some of them were throwbacks to the 1940s swing dresses — that’s probably how my vintage obsession got started — and I had a lovely collection of them. One of my favorite dresses was a lovely black, brown, cream, and pink floral princess seam dress with a black false underdress. It had corset-style lacing in the front and back, so it fit the body very well. I am so sad that I didn’t keep it! Another favorite was a classic 1940s-style princess seam dress. It was in green rayon and it had real shell buttons. I was determined to keep it forever, but somehow one of the shoulders faded in a very ugly way so I got rid of it. Yet another favorite was a two-piece set, sewn at the shoulder seams, that consisted of a solid black underdress and a sheer black and rose-colored floral overlay — a throwback to the sheer floral dresses of the 1920s. Sorry to ramble…’90s dresses are certainly nostalgic for me! Sometimes I find little ’90s dresses in vintage shops and it makes me sad because I think that was the last era in which you could buy well-made inexpensive RTW garments.

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