Thursday, 5 February 2015

Some thoughts arising from step 2 of 7 Steps to Style

At first,  this didn't seem so difficult. After all, I know my body! At least,  I thought I did!

I've always had difficulties getting clothes to fit. I'm 5'11" and while I may be shrinking down with age, it hasn't happened significantly yet! I was 5'10" by age 12 and that was extremely difficult for me. I towered over girls and boys alike - it wasn't until I was 18 that boys,  some boys, became taller than me. Can you feel my pain?

I'm afraid I can't insert many photos as I cannot change them to jpeg and it seems that Blogger only detects jpeg - or at least it doesn't detect Tiff. DH will work on this.

Young teenager around 14 I think
At 12, growing up in a fairly small town, though within 20 miles of Glasgow, I had UK size 7 feet. Stilettos were in fashion - not suitable for school or for someone who wished she were smaller! However,  girls' shoes only went up to size 2. So boys' shoes it was! Clumsy and laced.  No Internet in those days!  I remember my delight when one range of shoes - Stylo - started making girls' school type shoes, slip on, no laces, that fitted me!! Trousers were half length...  Skirts were too short...  There were no tights until I was in my later teens and they were expensive, so kept for church, so short skirts were a problem. There is no doubt that children now are taller, of course. My two older daughters are not as tall as me but my youngest is taller. My children don't have problems getting trousers that are long enough or buying shoes. Then,  they're happy with waistbands way below the waist and so on. I'm not.

I remember my mother commenting that at 5'8½" she towered over everyone in her generation (except my dad 6'1½") and had to squeeze her size 6 or 7 feet into shoes that cost a fortune and were too small. Wages were low but relative prices were very high, shoes costing several weeks' wages. She always towered over her generation but felt dwarfed by the girls in her year when she went to college in her 40s.

17 I think
Me at 19
 My particular problems of length and shoe size of my younger years are no longer really a problem - trouser leg length goes up longer than I need and shoes are available in big sizes, in a range of widths and styles.  LTS, which caters for tall women,  points out that they grade everything to suit a tall lady,  not just hem length. This is important because my extra height (and I'm pretty small for LTS!)  is not just in my legs. I'm longer from neck to bust, from bust to waist, have a longer crotch depth and longer legs. The extra length is not just in the legs.  Mine isn't completely evenly spaced. My torso is relatively long and my legs relatively shorter. What that means is that I can't just buy regular trousers and take the hem down. I don't particularly like the LTS styles,  unfortunately, and I can never get them to fit... but they have the theory correct.

Age 23 not long after I got married
Also age 23
I've made things more difficult for myself by getting firstly older and secondly fatter. So many styles in the shops are geared towards the younger wear and throw away generation.  They're not for me. Naturally, I'm looking for styles to suit me now, not my younger self. I have no wish to be seen as mutton dressed as lamb. A lot of the styles just don't suit.  Those that might, don't fit. Dresses with waistlines - waistline too high, skirt too short - and no hems these days to let down. Sleeve lengths too short, so jackets and blouses don't fit. Bust darts too high etc.  

Being older, my figure is drifting south and I've put weight on. I have a tendency to put weight on around my hips and thighs. More recently, I've found I've also put weight on my tummy, never a problem before now.

So I started with a slim (but never skinny despite the refrain at school...), tall hourglass figure. When at school, I was athletic - swimming, netball, badminton,  hockey, tennis and golf at different times. As I was academic, gradually these were given up,  apart from badminton, as I needed longer to study. I didn't ever have the slim athletic figure associated with sports. My hefty thighs and 'childbearing' hips were always the thing I liked least about my figure. At times, my fashion choices were quite dramatic - and my minis were very short.

With my parents at my graduation
Graduation age 23

University years (6) and my early career years, in particular, led to some weight gain because of lack of exercise and poor eating habits. My very long hours and irregular eating patterns were not body friendly. Lack of money as a student and lack of time when working, not to mention a lack of social outlets, meant that fashion was never as big an issue with me as it was with many of my peers.

When I got married (sorry I can't get any wedding photos to post), shortly after I graduated, we did so with only 18 days between the decision and the ceremony, although we had intended to get married 'one day'. (In those days,  couples did not live together before marriage; we lived 100 miles apart and in fact that continued for the first 18 months of our marriage because of work commitments.) I chose to get married on a bank holiday Monday, which no one in their right mind did, as this meant I was able to get church, minister, organist, photographer, cars and reception venue of my choice without the two year waiting list for more popular dates.  I suppose many people must have wrongly considered I might be pregnant because of our time scale. I wasn't and we didn't have our first child until 6 years later.
There were only two flies in the ointment. The first was that in those days, flowers were not available on Mondays (in those days everything was closed on Sunday) My town had 2 florists. The first could not help other than by using artificial flowers. The second could get flowers but could not say what they would be;  they asked for some idea of colours. I went with them and my flowers were beautiful.
The second was my wedding dress. I went to a wedding dress parlour to look and to buy. I indicated I didn't suit white and wanted ivory or cream. The assistant poo-hooed this idea until I tried some on. She then moved towards her small stock of not white. I liked the 👗 dress I bought from the start. It was simple, not frilly and suitable for our small scale wedding. However, it was a little short. The sales assistant could get one made longer but it would take 12 weeks!  I bought the dress I tried on and wore flat satin pumps dyed to match my dress.
Not an official photo and doesn't show shoes or dress length
I bought a short veil that I was not going to cover my face with. My dress and accessories were not expensive, as we just didn't have any money,  though we were fortunately not straddled with student debt, as my daughters are now. Getting married had never been something I dreamed of. My cousin got married and my mother was sick of hearing endlessly about plans over the course of more than 2 years and suggested at that stage she'd give me money to elope rather than go through that again. The idea suited me nicely. However, my mother couldn't go through with it for fear of public opinion. A big issue in a small town in the 70s.

There has never been mention of dressmaking in all this because there wasn't any,  really, although I did find a dressmaker to make my 'going away' outfit. I took up sewing for our home - curtains and later baby duvets etc. I did knit by hand and later by machine. I had some other artistic interests but not dressmaking.

I did actually sew a dress for myself while pregnant with my first child as maternity fashions were so awful. Mine wasn't much better but I did use it regularly - a simple pinafore to fit over tops and blouses. Otherwise,  I was still able to buy RTW.

I think the issues that led to RTW not working for me were the combination of me getting older and wanting to move away from young fashion while fashion focuses on the young and weight gain which led to an emphasis of my figure quibbles. At work I wore business suits, shirts, blouses and tops and these I could get.

For leisure,  I play golf which has a whole wardrobe associated with it!. My clothes are neither the most fashionable nor the best fitting but they're fine. Until my dressmaking improves so that I can make well fitting cropped trousers, that is.

I took up dressmaking to try to create clothes for the weekend, while not golfing, that fitted. Casual but not sloppy (I have plenty of clothes for the garden and decorating etc) and smart casual. My business suits no longer cut the mustard.
Obviously, the average pattern is aimed at a shorter woman than me. It's not surprising that I have to make alterations and adjustments to get garments to fit from these (though when I first started sewing I perhaps thought it was just finding the right pattern). I wasn't really expecting to find that I had high and asymmetrical hips, a bit of a sway back or a pseudo sway back. I knew that my hips and thighs were larger than my waist and chest and that I had to adjust for that. So,  a pear shaped figure. My high hips have also meant that if I buy say trousers, they could fit in thighs, be too big at waist but tight in the high hip area.

In 7 Steps to Style, there are a number of figure categories.  An 'X' which is an hourglass. An 'A' which is a pear. An '8' which I thought was probably me - a rough hourglass with high hips,  bigger on top than a pear. And of course, other shapes, which are unlike me.  To my shock,  I was categorised as an 'H', suggesting that I had no waist to speak of. There were clothing suggestions for each figure type,  designed to focus attention away from less desirable areas towards the more. I don't empathise with the suggestions for me as an 'H'. Several styles are suggested that I have always actively avoided e.g. double breasted jackets and coats and jackets with empire waistlines. Hopefully I'll lose the  H label when I start to lose my excess weight. In addition, there are suggestions for spectacles and hairstyles based on face shape and footwear based on frame size.

There wasn't too much new for me in terms of suggestions  - the big shock was the realisation that I have allowed recent events,  over the last 6 months or so,  to cause me to lose track of my weight gain and figure change. That's going to change. I'm not likely to actively use the clothing suggestions until I have lost weight.

Next step is Colours.


  1. What an interesting history - our style is formed by many factors :). I often think about my style and what has gone into it (or the lack of it) and that takes me down a path of introspection as well! Very nice finding out more about you and your formative years. I think you always had pear tendencies with an hourglass overlap. You are moving towards an H with mid life changes - many ladies do - I was always an H/I which I hated because I never got those feminine curves. I don't think you should follow prescriptive guidelines that you are uncomfortable- you could look rather overbearing with your height in a double breasted jacket!. Adapt with lines you know work for you and that are still classic and elegant, even for casual. I have trouble with this too.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree with everything you say. I wish I could change it! Body changes with age that is. I have big problems with casual in particular, smart casual - I seem either to be too smart and not casual enough or downright sloppy! I haven't found that particular style key yet. I'm not 'into' following prescriptive guidelines, never have been and that's not going to change now, nor would I want it to. I've always been too independent and individual - though I've sometimes wished otherwise. Your suggestions are spot on.

    2. that you are uncomfortable with, I meant to say. I'm glad I am spot on - I do try hard to try to understand where another person might be coming from. It can be hard being a little non-conformist as well. I'm familiar with the casual turning into downright sloppy - that's what happens with me as well, whereas some people look very nice in casual. No doubt we will work it out in due course.

    3. I'm sure we will work it out in the end. Thank you.

  2. I don't believe that double breasted are recommended for H in fact I'm pretty sure they are not recommended as they add extra bulk to your torso! Menopause frequently changes women's shape from a more waisted shape to a straighter shape sadly!

    1. I'm planning to lose a lot of the extra weight I've put on so that along with some appropriate exercise and toning I'll be closer to what I thought I was! I'm not a follow rules blindly person by any stretch of the imagination - I try to do/wear what feels right/comfortable. I must have misread the section on recommendations and will reread. I have received my colour swatch and need to read your post on what I do next. Thank you.


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