Thursday, 2 May 2013

Challenging my style-axioms

Is the fashion of all timeperiods for everyone? Or does some styles fit you better than others? Are there any total no-no's? I've always taken it for a given fact of life, an axiom that needen't be tested nor proved since it was so obviously true, that some styles fit me better, some are more so and so, and some I can't pull off no matter how hard I want to.

I've assumed that 20s, 30s and 60s fashion doesn't work for me. I need a waist definition, so the 20s and the A-line shift dresses of the 60s are a no-no. The hip-hugging 30s dresses with puffy sleeves accentuates totally wrong for me.

1936. Cute, but I'd never feel comfortable with so much puff at the shoulders.

But is that really true? Or is it worth testing this axiom? All right, yes, certain styles within an era might not work for me, but when ever does all the fashion variations from any era suit one person? Fashion through all ages has always been diverse, as in no point through history has everyone looked the same. Differences within a style can make that style work for very different body types, and I'm beginning to wonder if maybe when looking at period fashion sources (primarliy magazines and patterns) I'm giving the photo's/drawings too much credit. All the girls there looks the same, as they fulfill whatever beautyideal was prevalent at the time, but that's not how reality would have looked.



I started this summer with my 30s inspired wedding guest ensamble, and look! What would you know, it worked! However, I've been reluctant to leave my style-axioms behind, figuring that since it was just an A-line skirt on the bias it wasn't really 30s. But then I looked closer at a bunch of patterns and it seems the everyday wear of most of the 30s was worn with A-line skirts, not even on the bias all the time. And the huge, puffy sleeves? Yes, esp towards during 1935-1938 (approx) it seemes they were all the rage. But there was room for personal adaptions, just look at these blouses:


1936. All sorts of sleeves! On the same page!

So maybe I should give the 30s a real chance before I toss it out the window?

But my real eyeopener was when I tried on a late 20s/early 30s dress this Christmas. The story of how it entered my life is a cute one, and the details of the dress are amazing (albeit hard to see in this small, dark and partly blurry photo), but that's a post of it's own. You'll see more of this dress at a later date, I promise! Now I want to stay on track... so where was I? Right, bodyimage, time-eras and challenging my axioms.


This dress was made during an era when fahion appears to go 100% against what I know works for me, but it was obviously made for someone with a figure resembling mine. There's no apparent waistdefinition, but when I move, one can clearly see I have a waist. Also, while not emphasising my waist, it presents my derriere in a more flattering way than I have ever seen before. When made, it was fashionable, but still flattering for a figure totally opposite of the fashionable lithe girl.

So why do we dismiss entire eras ('cause I know I'm not alone in this) on the basis of not corresponding to the period fashionable bodytype? I think I need to get a bit braver, start exploring other eras and try to make them work for me. Who knows, maybe I'll discover another previous no-no fashion that becomes a favorite! =) I might even make a 60s shiftdress... I can't see how that could ever look good on me, but on the other hand, I've never tried! How can I be so totally sure if I've never tested? And here I think sewing gives me an advantage: had I just looked for vintage pieces or RTW, I would soon be discouraged (and has been in the past). Sewing it myself presents me with the golden chance of fitting the garment so it actually fits, and then maybe a tight 30s skirt or an A-line 60s shift dress can be made to look good on me.

How about you? Do you keep to one era or mix around? Has the fashionable body type of an era ever scared you away from that era? Ever had a similar experience to mine, when a style you thought never in a millions years would look good on you, suprised you with looking totally gorgeous?

Love, Erika

11 comments:

Sue said...

Wow, I really love your '30s inspired wedding guest ensemble!

I've always been drawn to the fitted bodice, full skirt styles of the 1950s & '60s but have recently fallen in love with more of the Mod looks of the later 60s, too, and have been surprised how flattering they can be!

Anthea said...

Interesting post!

Let me start with saying how much I love both dresses on you, especially the black one!

I never stick to one era all of the time. But I tend to avoid the shiftdresses of the 60s and the 20s too! I like a puffed sleeve, but it shouldn't be too big.

How I dress depends on my mood as well. If I don't feel really confident at a certain time I wouldn't wear a figure hugging Joan dress for example. But I might, at another time, when it feels right for me.

Evie said...

I think you should definitely give the 30s a go. I used to feel much the same way about having to have waist definition, but I've found that I love the cut and feel of a great many 30s and 30s inspired styles, and I can generally belt them as well, to keep things a bit more in my style comfort zone. You really have a lovely figure and I think that just about anything could look nice on you.

Lady D said...

I had a similar revelation about the 30's after I joined the historical sew a long. As it has to be pre 1938 to qualify...i had to adapt. and I've found actually the 30's looks quite good on me. the 1920's however is very hit and miss I can get away with a dropped waist if its not too low and the fabric is clingy or else I look like a sack of potatoes.
As for the 1960's....i've tried so many shift dresses and it doesn't work for me. Another era I thought didn't work was regency...but i'm finding its all about wearing the right foundations...without them I just look frumpy.

Tasha said...

Both of those look beautiful on you!

I think you are right, and part of our perception is based on "ideal" figures of each era that most women wouldn't really really have fit, anyway. I think the same is true now. Not that I really follow modern fashion trends, but we all know that runway models who are extremely tall and thin are hardly representative of the majority of us, so what looks good on them may look very different on the general population! So we should take vintage looks with a grain of salt when we try and think about what looks good on us-- you never know unless you try. :)

Elise Lin said...

That 20's/30's dress sure looks great on you! I don't have experience with sewing vintage style clothing, but I do tend to avoid what I don't think suits me (when looking for inspiration). I'm just too worried that when I make something, it ends up looking bad on me. But when I see your pictures I think maybe I should try out more styles. You did a great job on the Christmas dress!

Jessica Cangiano said...

It sounds like our bodies were in much the same vein, because I too have long felt that most of the styles of the 20s, 30s and later on the 60s, were big no-nos for my short, curvy frame. However, the older I get, the more I see this as a challenge to make at least a look or two from each of those eras work for my body, too. I'll always adore (and wear) the styles of the 40s and 50s most, but there's no reason I can't at least try my luck at some outfits from other decades every now and then, too. Taking a definite inspiration cue from you here, dear gal, in the process.

♥ Jessica

Erika said...

Sue; thank you! I've also always been drawn to the 50s look, and as much as I still love it, I'm starting to discover I like other era's just as much. The Mod look is one I've never tried (never believed it would look good on me) but now I'm more open to the idea of testing it in the future.

Anthea; Thank you so much! The black 202/30s dress is the most beautiful garment I've ever worn - the fabric, the cut, the drape, it feels... unbelieveble.
I thought of you when posting the puffy sleeves! =) You look amazing in that style!

Evie; thank you so much for your kind words! You just made my day =) So great to hear from another 30s convert! I love when looking at early 30s (30/31) pattern drawings, dresses is cut with a bit of waist-curve but is still very roomy, and belted versions are shown next to un-belted. It shows how it's really up to the wearer!

Lady D; thank you so much for your input! So interesting to hear of your travels through decades! I've had a similar experience with historical re-creations - it really only works with proper underwear. Otherwise it sill always look a bit... off.

Tasha; thank you so much! You really nailed it there - why believe fashion models in the past was any more representative than they are today? Not a very good reason to stop one from exploring an entire era of fashion... Just took me a while to figure out =)

Elise Lin; thank you so much! So glad if I inspired you to look at certain styles with fresh eyes!

Jessica; Thank you so much for your kind words! So glad to hear of other curvy women who's moving outside the comfortzone and experimenting with "new" fashion styles! Looking forward to seeing your journey into other decades! And I think you named it great - it's a challenge, but a manageble one =)

Leigh Ann said...

Interesting post! I'm short and curvy, and I also always feel that I need waist definition. I'm drawn to 1950s silhouettes, for that reason. I like the 30s fashions, but honestly, who looks like that? (But as Tasha noted, when have models ever been representative of the average woman?) Perhaps I've been too quick to dismiss some of the fashions from the 20s, 30s and 60s. You look lovely in the black dress, by the way.

beate grigutsch said...

mostly i run around in 40´s/50´s style.
like you i need a waist definition for not look boxy. but - if a 20´s dress is constructed like yours i would wear it for sure! what i can see on the foto is very pretty.
and sometimes pushing boundaries can be very refreshing :-)

malin said...

how pretty you look in that blue dress! :)