Please help me dress myself better than the mall can...
January 26, 2006 7:51 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite styles or pieces of clothing that defy trends?

I have recently been inspired to make most of my clothing for this spring/summer and next fall. Due to the time and energy investment I would like to end up with a wardrobe that will be unique but will still look good years from now. I am fairly experienced at sewing and have a big pattern library, so I can figure out how to make almost anything.

I am looking for things that can be hard to find at times as availability is often decided upon what will be popular rather than what will be practical for years. For example, I like making things like pleated skirts or fitted tweed jackets, but these might not be in stores depending on the trend cycle and most likely won’t be available in a color I like. Lately, I have been finding a lot of inspiration from vintage clothing.

So what are your favorite looks? Is there a skirt you have that looks good with everything? Do you have a coat that still draws complements after five years? Have you seen something special enough to make you look at it again? Pictures or links to patterns would be appreciated as would any inspirational book recommendations. This is also not limited to women’s clothing; I’m interested in looking at men’s styles, too.
posted by Alison to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A lot depends on what looks good on your body type. I've heard again and again that A-line skirts flatter everyone, but they don't flatter me, so I don't wear them- I wear straight skirts (or ultra poofy skirts, just for fun).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:57 AM on January 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I didn't want to rule anything out based on body type because what is flattering can be unpredictable. I'm more interested in getting a broad range of answers. I might not think a certain kind of jacket will fit me, but I might find inspiration in the shape of the collar or the cut of the sleeve.
posted by Alison at 8:06 AM on January 26, 2006

Best answer: I did a lot of costume research when I was in The Music Man this summer, and came to realize that many of my favorite looks have an Edwardian basis. I was able to pull many of my costumes from my closet , which surprised me, since I think of myself as a pretty modern chick, but it turns out I have a lot of long, straight skirts and shirts with nipped in waists. The Costumer's Manifesto is an invaluable resource for learning about clothes and styles.
posted by Biblio at 8:16 AM on January 26, 2006

Well, A-line skirts flatter me and I just love them. And I love the length that hits right below the knee. It can be so hard to find them sometimes depending on the current style. My favorite skirts are simple A-line skirts that hit me right below the knee, some of them have tiny slits on the sides, which I also love (I hate slits in the back and - even worse - the front!). My very favorite skirt has a subtle ruffle along the hem, it's not ultra-girly but it gives it a little something extra.

I also have a dress that I bought a few seasons ago. It is a sheer georgette fabric over a solid fabric, is loosely A-line, and hits right below the knee, with a georgette ruffle at the hem. It has a thin ribbon belt, and I get so many compliments on it that it isn't funny. It's one of those things that makes me feel gorgeous whenever I wear it, but I haven't been able to find similarly cut dresses in ages.
posted by catfood at 8:21 AM on January 26, 2006

I have a black button-up shirt dress with three-quarter sleeves that I bought 5 years ago, and it ALWAYS gets compliments, though it is one of the simplest items I own. Sometimes I wear it with coloured stockings, or pair it with a red cardigan and shoes, or add a scarf. Or I just throw it on without accesorizing. It wrinkles fairly quickly, but ironing it with a bit of starch helps.

The black shirt dress. It should be a staple of every (girl's)wardrobe.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:13 AM on January 26, 2006

things I have owned that have actually worn out rather than gone out of style:
white button-down shirts
dark pencil skirts
a simple black knit dress
posted by whatnot at 9:26 AM on January 26, 2006

Above all, pick shapes that flatter you - go to a store and try on something similar if you're not sure. It's so important in sewing to know what suits you.

Second, try to pick clothes that are simple enough that you can wear them often and mix and match them, but have enough detail and visual interest to be quietly distinctive.

I sew a lot, and for years I made the mistake of picking really simple clothing styles. Then I realized that the things I was making looked shapeless and bland and that clothes look much better if they have some detail and structure.

Last summer I made myself a cream wool three quarter-length frock coat and, since I had fabric left over, a knee length straight cream wool skirt. I doubt very much that I'll ever wear them together (it's too formal and staid a look for me), but they are great pieces in themselves. They're basic and classic, yet they upgrade whatever I put them with. That frock coat had 37 pattern pieces, and I spent the entire time I worked on it thinking, never again, but now that it's done it was worth it.
posted by orange swan at 9:26 AM on January 26, 2006
posted by daver at 9:33 AM on January 26, 2006

If I could sew, I'd make myself lots of cute little 50s house-dress style dresses--like maybe you'd see Lucy or Laura Petry in, but less constricting--in lightweight fabrics and bright colors. Knee-length, maybe with buttons down the front.

I also love embroidery and other such old-fashioned detailing, which actually does happen to be popular right now....
posted by lampoil at 10:04 AM on January 26, 2006

Pea coats and trenchcoats never seem to be out of style--they just show up in different colors and fabrics every year, and in different proportions.

You can make a classic piece look modern, even if the styling itself is not, with color. I refer to the Pantone Color Forecast for ideas.

I've found inspiration by flipping through those fabulous coffee table books about designers at the library or bookstore. Two recent favorites: the Chanel book, based on the retrospective exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a retrospective of the work of Vivienne Westwood.
posted by padraigin at 10:09 AM on January 26, 2006

Best answer: Another thing -- check out the blog A Dress A Day for inspiration. Erin posts a lot of great dress patterns, and often provides links for auctions to said patterns.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 10:13 AM on January 26, 2006

When I get time, I plan to make myself some of these trousers. Normally I'm not big on sewing, but I've gone nuts trying to find pants with the waist AT the waist and a loose fit through hips/thighs. This pattern looks classic and classy, as well as comfortable.
posted by Kat Allison at 11:47 AM on January 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers! I'm glad to know that there are people with the great taste on AskMefi. I'm actually halfway through my third dress after one week of work. The first one I made is very similar to the black shirt-dress, except made in green silk (It's view C here). I like it so much I might have to do another in black.

The Pantone Color Forecast is a great idea and I would love to see a photograph of the georgette fabric dress mentioned above.

A Dress A Day yielded a ton of inspirational links, especially There was such a selection of wonderful dresses. I have a pattern for this dress, and I could probably figure out how to make this gown with advice from friends. This dress is impractical, but I want to make something similar, anyway. Making this skirt is just a matter of finding the right material. There is also a wonderful wrap in this page (scroll down).

, and this are beyond my skills, but amazing. I'm tempted to shell out for this, and it will be my size if I just don't inhale while wearing it. Also, I found my wedding dress.

Thanks for the links!
posted by Alison at 6:59 AM on January 27, 2006

I've found that nice-looking, well-fitting sundresses can be hard to find, and frequently very expensive. If I were in your situation, I would make myself several light cotton or linen dresses. Dresses seem to be cooler in hot weather than shorts, for whatever reason, and certainly look nicer, too.
I'm partial to Vogue 2267, without the jacket, but something with a very high (Regency-type) waistline would be very fashionable this summer.
posted by Lycaste at 10:06 AM on January 27, 2006

word with the pinksuperhero. people are always spouting universalist bullshit about what's flattering. a line skirts make me look dumpy and pencil skirts, which are supposed to be hard to wear, are instantly flattering for me. (shrug) everyone's mmv.
posted by ifjuly at 12:17 PM on April 9, 2006

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