Today in my series of interviews with sewing bloggers on their connection between sewing & style, I’m delighted to feature Carolyn of Allspice Abounds. I love what Carolyn has to say about how sewing is liberating, both physically and emotionally, and (as someone who rarely makes the same thing twice) I particularly enjoy seeing her many lovely and inspiring variations of the same pattern! I’m delighted to share her thoughts on the connection between her ability to sew and her personal style.
Hello SeamstressErin readers! I’m Carolyn, and I blog at Allspice Abounds. I’m a PhD student living in Boston, and I’ve been sewing garments for almost three years now. I sew modern, practical separates with a focus on fit and craftsmanship, sewing slowly and finishing my garments as professionally as my sewing skills will allow. Many thanks to Erin for featuring me in her ongoing blog series on sewing and style!
Describe your style. What inspires or influences your style?
My style is very simple and streamlined, with smooth lines, few embellishments, and minimal jewelry and accessories. I’d even consider my style to be somewhat androgynous, and I love incorporating menswear influences into my clothing. Even though my ideal style and my actual style are pretty different, I think they both fit into this description.
Ideally I’d be wearing heels, a fitted sheath dress, and a blazer everyday. I love the slick, corporate look. However, dresses and heels are completely impractical for my urban, active lifestyle! My day-to-day style is dictated by functionality, and I often wear jeans or cargo pants, a plain knit top or button-down shirt, and maybe a blazer as a light jacket. I like wearing skirts occasionally (cut straight and above the knee, and always with a slippery lining), and maxi dresses are a favorite in the summer.
Things you probably won’t catch me wearing: ruffles, flounces, peplums, and anything draped, gathered, shapeless, or vintage. Did I mention vintage? I don’t do vintage. :)
Describe what you sew.
I sew modern, practical separates with a focus on fit and craftsmanship. I make a muslin (or two, or three) of all new patterns, without exception, and I tweak the fit until I’m happy. I sew slowly and take pride in precision and details. I very rarely buy new patterns (maybe 2-3 per year?) and enjoy making multiples of the same garment once I’ve adjusted the pattern for fit and functionality.
I look at every day as a chance to play dress-up. How do you play dress-up?
Sadly I don’t get to play dress-up nearly as often as I’d like! I work in a lab and walk all over the city, so practicality is key in my wardrobe. When I do dress up, I’ll wear a fitted sheath dress and 4-inch heels. I really miss wearing my heels!
How does your passion for sewing influence your style?
Like many of you, learning to sew my own clothes has been extremely liberating, both physically and emotionally. I’ve always been frustrated with the narrow range of clothing available in stores, highly subject to trends and really limited in sizing. Sewing lets me wear whatever I want, adjust the style to suit my lifestyle, and most importantly, wear clothing that actually fits my body!
A great example of this is blazers: a long-time favorite garment of mine, but almost impossible to find in a size that fits my broad back and long arms. I’ve sewn two custom-fit blazers so far, and I LOVE wearing them! I no longer feel like a mutant wearing garments designed for someone else.
What about over time: Has your style changed with time? Have your sewing abilities changed with time?
I don’t think my style has changed much over time, except to mature a bit as I get older. I like to think I’m more sophisticated now than I was 10 years ago. :) Although my sewing abilities have been gradually improving over time, my style hasn’t really changed since I started sewing (only a few years ago).
Since I love wearing streamlined, tailored garments, an over-arching sewing goal of mine is to learn traditional tailoring techniques. If I ever get another corporate job, I’d love to make myself a closet full of luxurious tailored suits!
What about in the beginning: Did you learn to sew so that you could have a certain style?
I started sewing garments for two main reasons: fun and fit. I love sewing as a way to spend my free time, and everyone has their own personal fitting issues to work around. I think my streamlined style is here to stay, regardless of my sewing.
Does your style require that you are able to sew?
A few years ago, I would have said no. Now I’d definitely say yes! My eyes have been irreversibly opened to the poor fit of RTW clothing on my uniquely-proportioned body, and sewing enables me to wear the clothes I love and feel confident that they fit my proportions. Hopefully I’ll never buy a shirt with too-short sleeves again!
Anything else you would like to say about sewing and style?
Although I think my style is different from a lot of sewing bloggers (and pattern designers) in that I don’t really wear feminine or vintage silhouettes, I think it’s fantastic that everyone has such a unique and interesting take on sewing and their own personal style. We have such a rich and diverse community of sewists, and it’s empowering to see everyone expressing their personality so vibrantly and passionately.