How To Find Your Personal Style

Today’s post was originally intended to be a pattern review and pics of my Sew Over It Lucia Top. The top itself has been finished for a while – in fact, I’ve already taken it on a couple of outings (when the crazy hot weather lets up a little and I’m not restricted to shorts and vest tops). Unfortunately, I’ve been struck down with a mega eye infection for the past week (super gross, I know) and, although I’m actually pretty much cured at this point, I’m still stuck in glasses. Despite my husband’s constant reassurances that I look “totally cute” in glasses, I really hate wearing them and basically avoid it as much as I can. And although my self-confidence has blossomed incredibly since starting Sew For Victory, glasses-wearing Laura is a very ‘unwilling to have her picture taken’ kind of girl. That said, I’m planning on getting the photos taken this weekend and should have a post about the Lucia Top coming up next week!

In the meantime, I wanted to post about something that’s been on my mind for the past few weeks (and a lot of this year, honestly) – the process of developing your own sense of personal style, whether vintage or otherwise. I’ve always admired people who have a very clear and concrete sense of personal style. As someone who spends far too much time trawling social media, I’m constantly confronted with pictures of people who obviously have a fully-realised idea of how they represent themselves through the clothes that they wear. As a member (albeit a casual one) of the vintage community, the need to have a very definite sense of personal style is particularly acute.

While I see nothing wrong whatsoever with having a clear-cut notion of your own identity through fashion, the image of ‘dressing vintage’ that we get online is very all-or-nothing. I generally come across few online personalities of the vintage persuasion who dress in anything but vintage outfits. Every photo, every #ootd, is very vintage specific. Don’t get me wrong, these images are incredibly inspiring and, ultimately, if what you wear makes you feel good, I say go for it! But in my own world, I’m constantly worried that what I present on this blog isn’t ‘sufficient’ because it is not exclusively vintage. I love vintage styles (and I’m aware that I’m using the term ‘vintage’ very loosely here) and I adore sewing vintage-inspired garments. They’re my favourite thing to make, without a doubt. However, they are not what I spend most of my life wearing, largely because it’s not totally practical given my lifestyle. However, vintage clothes also represent only a small fraction of the outfits that I actually enjoy wearing and in which I feel most myself.

When it comes to my own sense of personal style, I’m something of a split personality. On the one hand, I love vintage looks – circle skirts, petticoats, shoulder pads. It’s all beautiful to me! But another side of me is very much jeans, t-shirts, and generally pretty grungy (my hubs tells me I often look like I’ve rolled straight out of The Ramones). Where I used to dither about this – totally unable to reconcile both parts of the fashions I love – I’ve come to embrace it. Although Sew For Victory will always be largely vintage-focused, it’s also a personal sewing blog. And it makes no sense for me to narrow my own sewing projects to a niche that doesn’t represent what I wear most of the time. More than anything else, sewing my own clothes has helped my sense of personal style evolve dramatically. I pay far closer attention to things like colour and lines than I ever have before. And it’s so much fun. It also gives us the space to allow our own styles to change in parallel to other things in our life. This freedom is, I think, one of the major advantages of taking up garment-making as a hobby.

Vintage or otherwise, sewing has given me the tools to think about what I wear and how I want to portray myself. Although what we wear is a relatively superficial consideration compared to the most important things about us, it is still a form of communication with those around us. Playing with this is something that I enjoy massively. When I feel uninspired or am otherwise looking to plan out sewing projects that conform to the ways I like to dress, I have a few go-to methods for turning it out. These are techniques that apply whether you’re interested in vintage fashion or not, and they’ve all come in super handy for me over the past few months (especially in light of my 2018 goal to develop a better balance in sewing vintage versus everyday garments). So, here we go:

1. Find Inspiration

I’ve talked about this in other blog posts but I don’t think I would be half as productive in my sewing life if I wasn’t constantly searching out inspiration. Whether you do this online or through books, the world is a treasure trove of images and ideas! I’m generally not an advocate of spending too much time on social media – I definitely have to restrict my own time online because I tend to fall down a hole of self-comparison and general despair. But, used correctly and in moderation, social media can also be an incredible resource for finding outfit inspiration. I’m always saving screenshots of outfits I love and then searching out sewing patterns that would work to replicate the look. When you have a sewing machine, the world of fashion truly is at your finger tips!

I also make a point to visit second hand bookshops whenever I get a chance to see if I can find anything particularly inspiring. This is particularly the case when it comes to my vintage makes. I’ve had good luck on a few trips and landed some books with wonderful pictures and information about style during eras that especially interest me. If you have your mind set on any particular era, see if there are any used books you can get that might inspire or help you to develop a more concrete sense of how you might adapt the style for yourself. Sewing gives us an incredible ability of interpretation – with a photo or idea as a starting point, you can piece together a Frankenstein’s monster of an outfit that works for you. But inspiration will always be the starting point!

Really it’s all about exploring and seeing what ticks the boxes for you. If you’re not exposed to it, then you won’t know that it’s a possibility. Look at anything and everything that you think might interest you and you will find yourself naturally clinging on to images or ideas that come together to form a more defined notion of what you want your ‘personal style’ to be (even if it’s a thousand different things).

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2. Research Sewing Patterns

I’m obsessed with googling different sewing patterns. I pass many an evening looking at pattern makers and their patterns, noting anything that looks interesting. Once you’ve found some sources of inspiration, the next step is looking for sewing patterns that conform to this image – or might otherwise be manipulated to look the way that you want them to.

More generally, looking through sewing patterns (in person or online) is just another great way to find that inspiration. Part of the reason that my vintage sewing pattern collection has grown so large is because I find the patterns themselves to be super inspiring. Even patterns that I have no intention of making come together to form a bigger picture in my mind. It’s become a mini-education – I’ve learnt what I like, what I don’t like, and what I find interesting but wouldn’t necessarily what to integrate into my wardrobe. Part of the reason I loved getting the sewing patterns from my aunt was precisely because they don’t represent what I would normally make. Whether or not I get round to making them myself, I love seeing the patterns and thinking about how they might be interpreted to fit my own sense of style. It’s amazing what you can do with a pattern by choosing the right fabric and making a few alterations – it can become pretty much whatever you want it to be.

So have fun and explore what’s out there. If you’re of the vintage persuasion, I definitely recommend digging through the Vintage Patterns Wikia – although be sure to leave yourself plenty of time because you will likely fall down a bit of a vintage pattern hole.

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3. Lists Are Everything

Is anyone surprised that lists are one of my favourite tools?! You all know that I love planning, especially when I get to involve my bullet journal!

When I set out my sewing goals at the start of the year, I put a lot of emphasis on my desire to create more of a balance in the types of things that I was sewing. Sewing is a big time investment, particularly when I’m already juggling multiple things, so it’s important to get a good return for that time! Although I will always love sewing vintage (and gravitating toward vintage patterns will always be my default), I also want to make sure that I’m spending some time sewing things that will get worn regularly. This has meant thinking about practical restrictions (like walking the dog multiple times per day, doing yoga, and the crazy summers/winters in Missouri), as well as the sorts of clothes that I most enjoy wearing.

As part of my 2018 objective, I started creating lists of patterns that I felt had a place in my wardrobe. These are typically not lists of vintage patterns – since I already have so many in my collection and will pretty much always end up making one of these patterns for every one ‘everyday’ garment that I sew. But it’s come in super handy as a way to plan my makes, whilst also giving some direction to my regular pattern/inspiration searches. I’ve started a list at the back of my bullet journal to accommodate all of this. It’s not necessarily a ‘to make’ list. More of a place to record patterns I like, particularly when I have multiple patterns that I think would work together to create a complete outfit.

There are so many different ways that you can do this – and having a bullet journal definitely isn’t a requirement! But I think that having some way of recording your pattern finds and inspiration (even in the form of a scrap book or a folder on your computer) is really key to developing a concrete sense of your own style and plans to execute it.

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So there we have it! Some of the different methods I use for developing my own sense of style. Although so much of this has evolved naturally for me – and I think most of us just gravitate towards the things we love – part of the joy of sewing is in the exploration. I have things I’ve sewn that I look at and think ‘WHY ON EARTH?!’ But it suited me at the time and worked into the sort of identity I gave to the clothes that I chose to wear.

Ultimately, sense of style or not, you need to feel good, happy, and confident in what you wear. Taking some time to search for what’s out there in terms of patterns and fashions is just one way of figuring out what makes you feel your best and brightest. But we’re all constantly changing and learning, so it only makes sense that our style would evolve and adapt alongside us. Have you worked consciously to create your own personal style? Do you have any particular things you do (or have done) that have helped you to figure out what you most love to wear?

Sewing For Self-Care: Kendra’s Story

This month has been an incredible one for the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series. Elena’s post received such an amazing response from many of you and I’m so happy that this blog could serve as a forum for discussion about sewing/creativity and its role in managing more severe forms of mental illness. Today’s post, from the lovely Kendra, takes a different angle. As a mental health professional, Kendra talks about sewing as self-care in light of working such a challenging and consuming job. For those of us (and I’m sure there are many) who find ourselves stressed out, frazzled, or otherwise unable to leave work at the office, Kendra’s insights are powerful and important. So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Kendra and her wonderful story of sewing and self-care…

*If you would like to contribute to the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, details can be found at the end of this post.*


I work as a licensed mental health counselor, which means that, like many of you in other professions and jobs, I’m often mentally drained at the end of the day. It’s ok because I love the work I’m doing, but that doesn’t make it any less draining—perhaps the opposite. I work at a community mental health clinic, which means a majority of my clients are unemployed, many are on disability, many are in recovery from substance abuse (or trying to maintain sobriety), many have been hospitalized multiple times for suicide-related behavior, and almost all are trauma survivors of one kind or another. In treating them, I become invested in their narratives. And over time, those stories can consume me, and clients’ behavior can seem personal, unless I actively pursue self-focused activities.

I’ve always had hobbies, enjoyed socializing with friends, and worked a full-time job, but it was not until I returned to graduate school (for a second time!) that I truly understood the consequences of failing to maintain balance for myself. Practicing self-care is essential. For me, that includes the healthy habits such as exercising, eight hours of sleep, minimizing coffee and alcohol intake, a balanced diet, socializing, reading, and turning off the news when necessary. But in addition, it includes my hobbies, of which sewing is the most prominent these days.

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Because I have cultivated my healthy habits and hobbies, it is a lot easier for me to sell those ideas to struggling clients. I speak with my clients a lot about developing their own hobby or re-igniting interest in an already-existing one. I always use sewing as the example in my own life. While no one has reported that they picked up sewing too, several have found benefit from being creative, adding structure to their day with a class, having an activity to look forward to, or developing a sense of accomplishment by completing a project or working with their hands.

Growing up, my mother sewed a large part of my wardrobe. I did not love it at the time because she wasn’t making me look 80’s trendy (no, my mother was not sewing me tutus, leggings, or off-the-shoulder sweatshirts). But I sure do love looking back at the pictures of us!

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My mother taught me how to knit and how to needlepoint. I learned cross-stitch at Girl Scouts. I learned to sew in eighth grade home economics. I didn’t hang on to all these hobbies, but about seven years ago, I picked up needlepoint again and really enjoyed the creative outlet it provided. And, this past winter, I dusted off my sewing machine and signed up for a class. The sense of accomplishment from completing a sewing project is very strong. I love being able to experiment with fabrics and styles that I can’t find in a store or that I wouldn’t normally select for myself. The attention to detail that I need to accurately pin my fabric, stitch straight seams and even hems, and iron the seams, appeals to my perfectionist tendencies. Not only that, but my budget can definitely handle sewing!

In terms of self-care, sewing allows me to focus on each step and remain present as I’m doing the project. For example, when I’m cutting fabric, I have to be focused on what I’m doing and be very deliberate. It’s almost meditative. I can sit down at my machine for five minutes or five hours and I still have to do one step at a time. That’s an important reminder for me to complete one task at a time and give it my full attention. When I make a mistake on an item, I fix it. That’s like boot camp for problem-solving. And, it reminds me that I do know how to solve my own problems, and that I can usually fix a mistake by acknowledging it and figuring out how to move forward, instead of dwelling on the mistake. Can you imagine if every time I sewed the lining into a dress wrong, I just stared at it for hours, cried, and then threw the project away?

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When life stressors increase for me, I lean on my hobbies even more. I attend a weekly needlepoint class and a weekly sewing class. I’ve made friends in these classes that I can check in with throughout the week while attending. It creates structure for me to attend the classes at a consistent time each day and be on time to work. I develop new skills that I can use to sew or stitch another item. I look forward to going out and coming home because each location offers its own rewards. I find myself sewing and stitching more often, as a means to balance out my stress.

Between the spotlight that mental health has recently undergone with two recent celebrity suicide deaths, the political climate and uncertainty of world events, the warmer weather and longer days leading to less routine, the transitions of the summertime approaching, a packed schedule, and even noticing that it’s time to buy a new pair of running shoes, has all led to an increase in stress.

So, my sewing machine is going at full speed.

And my closet just got a little more packed.

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A huge thank you to Kendra for such an interesting and affirmative post! Since writing the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, I’ve been fascinated by the ways in which creativity can be used in professional mental health care settings. That encouragement toward creative hobbies plays a role – as described by Kendra – just evidences that the connection between mental health and creativity is a very real one. I so appreciate Kendra taking the time to write this post for us! If you want to keep up with her sewing journey, you can follow her on Instagram @kqkstitches or Twitter @KQKrazy

If you are interested in contributing a post to Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story, please get in touch! You can email me – laura@sewforvictory.co.uk – or contact me via any of the social media outlets linked in the side bar. If you would like to see more information about the series, be sure to check out my original introduction post!

Another Vintage Pattern Haul!

Happy mid-week, everyone! I’m back after a short break. Life got a bit chaotic last week so I decided to take some time off from the blog to get my schedule in order. Although there are definitely no prospects of things calming down any time soon (I’ve taken on new work commitments, plus I’m prepping for my Yoga Teacher Training course – yes, I got accepted!!!), I’m at least starting to work out where everything will fit. When I was studying for my PhD and working towards a career in academia, it never occurred to me that I might end up having a life made up of so many different components. But I’m in the fortunate position to be able to pursue most of my passions alongside one another! The challenge is in finding enough time to get everything done – something that I’m working on, whilst also bearing in mind the many lessons on self-care that I’ve picked up over the years. But any extra detail on this will be saved for another day and another post.

Today’s post is devoted to more vintage patterns! I’ve really been lucking out in regards to growing my vintage pattern collection. Fortunately, this time around I didn’t even have to visit any shops. My mum recently made a trip back to the UK (for those who don’t know, my parents are also British expats living in the US) to see family. And my aunt took the opportunity to pass on some vintage patterns to help boost my collection! Interestingly, these patterns lie a bit outside of my typical vintage ‘comfort zone’. I’m very much about the 1940s and 1950s, although I do enjoy the more ’50s-inspired silhouettes in 1960s patterns. However, looking at the patterns gifted to me by my aunt, I’m so encouraged to step away from my traditional makes. They’re such lovely patterns!

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I actually think that these patterns offer more ‘everyday’ looks than my typical vintage pattern finds. Since I’m working hard to expand my everyday wardrobe, I’m definitely seeing a lot of potential for new sewing projects!

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I do love a playsuit! In fact, one of my upcoming projects is the Sew Over It playsuit. But I really like the versions in this Vogue pattern. I’m particularly happy that V9464 offers multiple leg length variations – especially the knee length version. This seems to be a rarity in most modern playsuit patterns, which typically opt for long leg or short leg alternatives with nothing in between. Plus the waist tie is just so sweet!

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Simplicity 5471 is adorable! I’ve yet to make any halterneck dresses or tops, although I recently bought one of Simplicity’s reproduction vintage patterns that offers multiple halterneck tops. I think this is the perfect look for the summer – particularly with temperatures currently as high as they are in St. Louis. S5471 looks like a wonderful addition to any summer wardrobe. I’m thinking that this might be a great pattern to put on my short-term list of makes so that it can get some outings during the height of summer!

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If you’ve seen any of my previous vintage pattern hauls, you’ll know that I have a real love for patterns that feel slightly unconventional. My 1940s bathing suit pattern is probably one of my all-time favourites! So it’s unsurprising that I love V6644. When I first saw it, my immediate question was whether the shower cap is included in the pattern – imagine my joy to discover that it is! Adorable!

I genuinely am quite enamoured with the dressing gown on the left. I think it is so cute – especially the little bow ties on the front! Thinking ahead, I’m definitely in need of a dressing gown for the autumn. I’m one of those people that is obsessed with layers and just generally being covered up. Even at 35C outside, I’ll sit with the fan on so that I can justify having a blanket over me. I love thick socks, comfy pjs, and just generally being snug. As you can probably guess, summer isn’t a time of year that I inhabit with much success. But the nice thing with sewing is that I can plan ahead and feel autumnal in my makes. So perhaps indulging in a bit of dressing gown making will help me feel like October is already here!

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Saving the best for last! This pattern is actually super special because it’s the pattern that my aunt used to make her wedding dress – specifically version C. Isn’t it wonderful? I’ve been trying to find a photo of said dress but my laptop is being uncooperative. I’ll ask my aunt to send me a picture so that I can share in a future post. Although I’m not planning any future marriages (I’m sure my husband will be relieved), I’m so happy to have such an important pattern in my collection.

Although I have family members that have sewn or do sew, I didn’t grow up being exposed to these skills. I don’t remember ever seeing any family members sewing – but I always heard from my aunt how she used to sew her own clothes and had made her wedding dress. Having been traumatised by a sewing machine experience early in secondary school, these stories obviously failed to resonate with me. However, now that sewing is such a big part of my life, I think about this sewing legacy very often. The thing that I love most about sewing vintage and vintage-inspired patterns is the feeling of touching history. It’s not usually about actually wearing the garments I make – although obviously this is a bonus. Rather, I love the feeling of somehow connecting to the past through sewing such vivid examples of vintage patterns. Getting these patterns from my aunt gives me an especially strong sense of that connection!

So another vintage pattern haul done and dusted! I’m excited to try stepping out of my vintage niche with some patterns from other decades. Do you typically stick to a certain decade when you sew vintage? Or do you have no preference?

Sewing For Self-Care: Elena’s Story

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a good amount of time reflecting on the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series. I didn’t have may goals when I created the first call for posts. I had seen and experienced the gap that exists in conversations about sewing and its relationship to mental health, and I hoped that creating this forum for discussion would go some way towards filling that hole. Although we use the term ‘self-care’ often and with increasing fervor, I found that it was being used increasingly to escape the need for real, honest discussions about mental illness. The sincerity and openness of the bloggers who have participated in the  series has gone a long way – I believe – in redirecting the conversation to one that confronts very real and truly multidimensional experiences.

Something I didn’t foresee in starting the series, however, was the amount of learning I would do. Reading the posts submitted to me has opened my eyes to a world of stories that I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered. The fact that these stories are in the words of the people living them just adds to the power of the education we’re all undergoing as readers. Today’s post – written by Elena from Vintage Sewing Machines Blog – is a testament to the educational power of people choosing to tell their stories with courage and openness. Her experiences with bipolar and her use of sewing to establish a sense of “normality” is enlightening, to say the least. I have learnt an incredible amount from my personal exchanges with Elena, as well as from the truly amazing story that she’s written for us today.

With that, I’ll stop hijacking the post and will hand over to Elena…

*If you would like to contribute your own story to the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, details can be found at the end of this post.*



I’ve been thinking a while about Laura’s call for stories on sewing for self-care. It’s a personal subject – how do I even begin to tell it?

I have a long story – a life long one, in fact, having been born with an active bipolar disorder. I am 48, but it is only in recent years that some form of medication became available for my particular variant, and even that does not remove the symptoms but only softens them. Thank Goodness for that though! I am not complaining – last 6 years were bliss. 🙂

So, without any help, pharmaceutical or from a therapist, I had to find my own ways of dealing with life. I’ve worked all my life, I still do. Work full time, and for twenty years also studied in the evenings. So the effects of bipolar disorder had to be managed, yes, but mostly hidden from everyone else – appearances must be normal, or anyhow close to normal, since no one wants to have a colleague with mental health issues. It is only in recent years that the stigma started lifting a little, but only just. If you want to lead a normal life without everyone treating you as if you were “fragile”, mental illness has to be hidden. I figured it out at the age of five – not the bit about mental illness of course, but the bit about hiding what you feel. You learn the rules of social behaviour and then you act accordingly. No one needs to know what you feel inside.

A very good psychiatrist told me a long time ago: “I don’t have a medicine to give you. You have an artistic personality and you need to learn to live with it. Do artistic things – that helps.”

So, all of you bipolar people: we have artistic personalities! Huzzah! 😀

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I’ve been doing all things textile since before I can remember 🙂 so following the doctor’s advice wasn’t hard. But sewing only started to have an impact on my bipolar when I consciously included it into my daily routine as a mandatory activity. It pushes back the waves, creating islands of time shielded from the roaring ocean of conflicting emotions – my everyday “normality”.

So yes, to me sewing is vital.

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Mania is not euphoria

In a nutshell, bipolar disorder makes your general emotional state swing between periods of depression and mania. It is the background mood – you still get the usual emotions on top of it. The length of each period is roughly the same, so your life goes through regular phases, for some people it’s 3-4 months each, for others it’s only days, and sometimes it can be as long as several years.

Depressive phases are easy to understand – you feel sad and everything looks worse than it is, this is very similar to a regular depression. Manic phases are more complicated, and usually far from pleasant. You don’t get elevated moods  – the dominant emotions are anger, irritation and frustration, not euphoria, as many people think. So you’re generally swinging between depression and aggression…

My phases are short – just a week each, so at least I always know that no matter how bad it is, it will be all over within a week. 🙂 Always look for the silver lining. :-))

When mania is really bad, I can only sleep 3-4 hours a day (or not at all when I was younger), so you’d think there is a lot of time but you are so conflicted that you don’t get anything accomplished unless you get organised. But you can’t get organised because your thoughts are racing and jumping all over the place, so you yourself literally start racing around the room… The only solution is to have a plan prepared and waiting, such as needing to clean 5 bathrooms, make 25 identical T-shirts or wind 30 balls of wool. 🙂 Not too involved – your brain is in overdrive. (NOT to write another chapter for your PhD thesis – bad, bad idea!!) This frantic work slows you down, and there comes your chance to do some creative work and make new plans, both for depressions and manias. This is when you get very out-of-the-box ideas – very creative. Not always wise, but creative.

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During a depression you can’t think straight because your brain is too slow. So you need a plan to follow, such as drafting a difficult pattern or sewing that said pattern using some slippery satin or something. A real challenge. It must be tactile to bind you with reality – it is incredibly easy to slip into a dream world – after all, any reality is only in your perception, it is always subjective. But, as someone said, if the dragon is still blazing fire after you’ve woken up, call the Fire Brigade because it’s the real one (probably your cooker). So, doing complex tactile things helps to separate real dragons from imaginary ones and stimulates the brain and winds it up a bit, so you become functional again which automatically improves your mood. Win-win. 🙂

And what about sewing?

I don’t just sew for the sake of doing it – the process is extremely important but it must lead to a good result. Or at least it must serve as a lesson so that the next attempt would yield a good result. A good result being a garment that feels nice, fits me perfectly and looks a treat – all three aspects are equally important.

I sew clothes because I like my clothes to fit and be comfortable – not too hot and not too cold, so made of natural materials, and unfortunately such things are not being stocked at our stores. (Someone said that our cotton fields got contaminated with polyestritis – it certainly looks that way in the shops!) So I make my own.

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Wearing well-fitting clothes that suit the weather, your mood and the occasion gives you an instant boost of confidence which is very important when your emotional state is a bit shaky – and you don’t need to have bipolar to know it! (And wearing polyester that makes you all clammy and sweaty with the corresponding aroma does the opposite.)

I started making my own clothes back in school, learning from my mum – she used to copy patterns from magazines. They fitted well enough – they fitted my mother far better than they fitted me though! I got so fed up with endless fittings and alterations during sewing that I went to college and took on a complete professional training in bespoke pattern cutting and tailoring with couture techniques. No more alterations! 😀

Those three years, and getting my tailor’s diploma in the end, was the most empowering experience of my life! I possess an essential life skill – making clothes – and with it I shall survive anywhere, endure anything – even a Marsian invasion (and won’t they need clothes too?). 😉 

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Every garment I make, for myself or for others, I make to the best of my ability, and still every time I learn something new. Sewing has endless variations of fabrics and patterns, colours and textures, finishing techniques, embellishing, embroidery, knitting and crochet too – and I am not sewing for theatre, this is all for every day! I like to sew everyday clothes and make them less everyday.

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The more reason to have calming grounding tactile textiles to sew and knit every day!


Thank you so much to Elena for writing such an insightful and thought-provoking post! It truly is a testament to the incredible impact of sewing and creative outlets on our mental health. Be sure to check out her blog – Vintage Sewing Machines Blog – for more amazing content!

If you are interested in contributing a post to Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story, please get in touch! You can email me – laura@sewforvictory.co.uk – or contact me via any of the social media outlets linked in the side bar. If you would like to see more information about the series, be sure to check out my original introduction post!

1960s Dress (Simplicity 8591)

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I’m so excited to be kicking off June with a brand new vintage-inspired make. It’s been a little while since I last turned my hand to a reproduction vintage pattern (despite an ever increasing stash of these patterns in my sewing cupboard), so this make feels particularly overdue. I’ve had my mind on a version of Simplicity’s 8591 pattern for a while – it’s super fun and flirty, perfect for a floraly summer dress – but couldn’t settle on a fabric. Fortunately, a trip to Joann’s set me in good stead with a beautiful mint green cotton and I was determined to finish May with a new dress under my belt (so to speak). And here she is…

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Sweet and simple. I love this dress so much! I so rarely have any issue with Simplicity patterns and S8591 was no exception. Despite the incident with my serger (we’re only just on speaking terms again), there were really no hiccups with any part of the construction process. Everything came together a treat due Simplicity’s super clear instructions. For some reason, I always panic when I use patterns from major pattern companies (Vogue, McCalls etc.). I’m not sure why – perhaps its the massive instructions sheets that typically come with their patterns. Either way, I’m always incredible intimidated by them. But this fear is usually unwarranted, particularly when I’m working with anything from Simplicity. I really enjoyed the construction of this dress and was able to reinforce a few skills – gathering, making ruffles – along the way!

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Definitely feeling my oats here

Size-wise, I obviously didn’t make a muslin (regular readers of Sew For Victory know that I avoid muslins with a tenacity that would honestly be impressive were it applied constructively elsewhere). As usual, I simply followed the sizing as per my measurements and hoped for the best. In the end, I had to take the bodice in quite a bit. I think I probably could have left it as it was, in which case it would’ve had a pretty generous amount of ease and just looked a little baggy around the waist/bust. But, since I decided to use an invisible zip rather than the standard zipper required by the pattern, it was super easy to take in. I simply basted the zip in and then worked with it until I got the fit just right. Obviously having my mannequin helped a lot with this!

Honestly, though, this fit adjustment wasn’t even slightly challenging. I would probably suggest that anyone trying this pattern might want to make a muslin first (if that floats your boat and, if it doesn’t, welcome to the club!) or perhaps opt for an invisible zip. Working with an invisible zip isn’t problematic at all in this case – there’s a generous amount of allowance of either side of the back bodice, so it’s simply a matter of finding a good fit and inserting the zip as you would normally sew in an invisible zipper (basically, I just ignored the pattern instructions and did my own thing).

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Let’s talk about the sleeve (and ignore my super pink arm – English people shouldn’t be outside in St Louis summer weather). Oh my goodness, is it the cutest feature! When I first started putting the dress together, I was slightly worried that it was looking a bit Victorian. Paired with the very gathered skirt, it definitely has that sort of feel to it. But the length of the sleeves work perfectly with the ruffles and, once the belt is added and the dress is hemmed, the dress instantly takes itself out of the 1800s and into the 1960s.

I’m in love with these ruffles. They’re really easy to add on and, if you work with a medium-weight cotton, they stand out beautifully. I’m obsessed on so many levels and seriously considering adding ruffles to literally every sleeve that I make from now on.

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I also really like the belt. I wasn’t sure if I could be bothered making it – particularly because I knew that I would have to trawl the internet for an appropriate belt buckle. It was definitely a quest trying to find one without a prong that was also the right size and colour. Fortunately, I now know that Etsy is the place to be when it comes to vintage belt buckles. After a bit of searching, I struck gold with this 1930s buckle – perfectly sized and only $8.00. I’m so glad that I decided to make the effort – not least because the belt only took about 30 mins to construct and it really does add to the 1960s vibe of the whole ensemble.

It’s also worth mentioning that this dress works perfectly well without a petticoat. I do have a bit of a problem when it comes to 1950s/1960s silhouettes. I love a circle skirt but I find that, without a petticoat, they can end up making my hips look enormous. The whole thing ends up looking a bit like a deflating balloon. Fortunately, the gathering on this skirt – balanced out by the high neckline and ruffles on the sleeves – helps the dress look amazing, even without a petticoat. This definitely makes me much more likely to wear it out and about!

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What more can I say? This dress is a vintage lover’s dream. I think it may be one of favourite makes to date (I know, I say this every time – but seriously, it’s amazing). I’m thinking it would be perfect for special occasions but could totally see it working for a  summer picnic or a desire to pretend you’re starring opposite Gene Kelly in a Hollywood musical (not that I ever think about this).

Now I’m off to twirl around for a while and practice some seriously sub-par dance moves!

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Me Made May: A Success Story!

Me Made May is officially at an end! Well technically it ends tomorrow – but I’m totally ready to celebrate a wonderful month. I posted at the start of May about my goals for the month. Essentially, I was just hoping to use the month as an opportunity to revisit some of my favourite me-made garments. I definitely didn’t think I would end up dressing in a me-made outfit every day – the weather in Missouri is pretty wildly hot at the moment and doesn’t totally accommodate my vintage wardrobe. But I gave the month a good shot and ended up feeling super accomplished.

One of the greatest things about the month is that it really hammered home where I need to focus my sewing efforts. I struggled to put together any completely me-made outfits (unless I was wearing a dress, of course) because I just don’t have any tops. Just realising that this is the case has motivated me to fill in my wardrobe gaps and, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m in the process of making a couple of new tops! I think Me Made May is an incredibly useful challenge through which to get totally acquainted with the state of your wardrobe and figure out where you could put in some extra effort. I’m genuinely really excited to move forward and create a complete wardrobe for myself. I owe a lot to Me Made May for giving me an opportunity to make a much-needed appraisal of my garments!

To those of you who decided to participate in Me Made May, I hope that you have had a similarly fabulous month of clothes! I’ll leave you with photos of some of my favourite outfits – you can also see more of this sort of thing by following me over on Instagram (there’s a link in the sidebar)!

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My flowery, dotty version of V1043

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The Veronika Circle Skirt from Megan Nielsen

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My favourite trouser pattern – the Ultimate Trousers from Sew Over It

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The Clemence Skirt from Tilly and the Buttons ‘Love at First Stitch’ book

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The Tyyni Cigarette Trousers from Named Clothing – with bonus Ron Weasley

Here’s to a year of making new, amazing clothes so that next May will be even more incredible!

It’s Lu-chee-ah!

I’ve finally calmed down after last week’s serger incident. Clementine and I are back on speaking terms and I’ve actually managed to finish my version of S8591, with no further attempts at sabotage! I was able to find a piece of fabric remnant in the bin large enough to cut out another ruffle for my sleeve so the whole project was salvaged. Hurrah! I’m beyond pleased about this because, honestly, this dress may be one of the prettiest I’ve made so far. Here’s a little sneaky peek for all of you Keen Katies (I don’t know if this is a thing, but we’ll go with it):

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Ok so it’s not much of a sneak shot but I don’t want to give too much away before I post the full photos next week. But, at the very least, you can see this beautiful fabric! I’m in love with it! I kind of picked it up on a whim – not particularly in love with it, but otherwise feeling that it would work well for the pattern. Also, it’s mint green which seems to have become a wardrobe staple of mine without me even realising it. However, once the pattern started coming together I could see how perfectly the fabric works. The dress is super flouncy and cute – the fabric definitely serves to really bring these characteristics out and adds wonderfully to the floral, summer vibe that I was shooting for!

So, yes, pretty pretty prettiness is on its way to you next week! In the meantime, I thought I’d do another project update – because, seriously, I’m whizzing through these patterns like nobody’s business right now. As predicted, my next pattern has not ended up being the Sew Over It Poppy Playsuit – although, it is a different Sew Over It pattern! I’ve decided to turn my hand to making a couple of versions of the new Lucia Top! Since I’m a member of the Sew Over It PDF Club (so exclusive, I know!), I actually got an email about this pattern a few days before it was released. I knew immediately that I wanted to make it – although I didn’t jump on it fast enough to get the discount that came with the email. Still, I’m super excited for this pattern and having even more ruffles in my life!

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I think that I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been wanting to make more separates. Taking part in Me Made May has definitely shown me how woefully lacking I am in this department. I have lots of bottoms – trousers, skirts – but only one top (and since it’s very floral and sheer, it’s not particularly versatile). So one of my goals for the coming months is to spend a bit more time filling in the gaps. This isn’t an easy task for me. I started sewing largely because I wanted to make lovely vintage clothes, and I will always be most drawn to beautiful vintage patterns. However, there’s a definite discrepancy between my everyday wardrobe and the things I make. I’m not a pin-up model and I don’t live in vintage clothes. I love them and I love to wear them, but it’s also not feasible for me to be walking the dog in 35C weather or doing yoga in a 1950s dress.

At the start of the year, I actually set out one of my sewing objectives as finding more of a balance between everyday and vintage patterns. I think I’ve mostly achieved this – what with the Ultimate Trousers and the Ginger Jeans. But, honestly, I find the idea of sewing tops really boring. So I’ve never wanted to invest any time in it. That said, I’m keen to really fill out my wardrobe and I figure that the nice thing about tops is their relative lack of time investment! I’ve already cut out the Lucia pattern and it’s only 3 pattern pieces. That’s definitely refreshing! Since I’m committed to making some versatile wardrobe staples, I’ve also decided to make my initial versions in just plain knit fabrics – one black and one white. I think these will work really well with the skirts and trousers that I’ve already made – plus, I can always make more exciting versions in the future!

So that’s my sewing life at the moment. I’ll definitely have some new bits and pieces to show you next week! In the meantime, if you missed it, you can check out my last post Sewing For Self-Care: A Round-Up to check out what’s been happening on the blog over the past few months!

 

 

Sewing For Self-Care: A Round-Up

Being able to post about sewing and its relationship to self-care is probably my favourite thing about running Sew For Victory. I think that so many of us who have battled – or are battling – with mental illness struggle to find a meaning to it. When you’re experiencing something that you wouldn’t wish on anyone, it’s difficult to justify why you should have to suffer through it yourself. Using my blog as a platform to discuss mental health and highlight the incredible benefits that a creative outlet can have for all of us is just one way that I’ve been able to give some sort of meaning to my experiences. And I believe that this search for meaning may be one of the reasons why sewing works so effectively in helping us to manage our mental health. Not only is a great distraction from various external and internal goings-on, it’s a channel through which we can direct our emotions – sadness, stress, anxiety, happiness, or otherwise – and create something meaningful. I don’t even think it matters what you end up creating – a garment, a painting, or a doodle. Because the meaning behind it is there, regardless.

Opening up the blog to other sewist’s stories about sewing and mental health has been an incredible experience. I am honestly humbled by the fact that anyone would want to share such personal stories with an unknown audience, but it’s a testament to those amazing bloggers and the power of this conversation. Although I see the taboo around mental health decreasing in many respects, it still feels to me as though society is most comfortable when it is a conversation being had behind closed doors. Not only does this do little to dispel the ignorance around mental illness, it’s also incredibly dangerous to individuals who are struggling to find a path forward. My hope in starting the Sewing for Self-Care: Your Story series – and writing about my own struggles separately – was to start an open and honest conversation about mental health and the way that creativity can help us navigate the psychological storms.

So far, I’ve had three fantastic bloggers share their stories:

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  • Jenny from Jenny DIY wrote about using sewing as a means to manage anxiety, as well as the complex relationship between self-care and mental health.

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Each of these amazing individuals spoke openly about the ways in which sewing has helped them to manage mental illness and practice the self-care that we all so desperately need. Their passion for sharing the benefits of creativity is evidenced by their total willingness to share their struggles on a blog that is not their own with a whole host of people that they don’t know. It’s this kind of courage that makes me believe we truly will reach a point where conversations about mental health are no longer ‘closed door’ discussions but are ones that we aren’t afraid to have wherever we choose to.

If you would like to add your own voice to this conversation about sewing and self-care, I would love to have you. You can read the original post or simply email me laura@sewforvictory.co.uk to share your thoughts!

Since starting the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, I’ve also shared some additional resources of my own. One of my favourite posts to write was Sewing For Self-Care: The Science Behind Creativity And Mental Health. The more I’ve been writing about sewing and self-care, the more interested I’ve become in the the objectively verifiable ways that creativity can help us to manage our mental health. Although it is an area of increasing interest for academics and professional mental health practitioners, I found a lot of evidence from studies already conducted that indicates a strong positive relationship between creativity and recovery from mental illness. Although a creative hobby is obviously no replacement for professional intervention – whether through doctors or therapists – it is so encouraging to see evidence that points to the benefits of creative outlets in managing our mental health!

I also recently shared one of my favourite posts of personal tips in Sewing For Self-Care: Managing Motivation. My levels of motivation are definitely a strong indicator of where I stand with my mental health on any given day. It ebbs and flows with my mood. Even if you’ve never struggled with mental illness, you’ve likely encountered the ways in which our drive to get things done tends to fizzle out when we’re faced with particular emotions – typically stress or anxiety. Over years of learning to manage my motivation when my mental health isn’t so great, I’ve developed a few different techniques that tend to work in giving my the motivation boost that it needs. Writing this post was a great personal reminder of the fact that I have all of the tools at my disposal – sometimes it’s just about clearing the mental fog so that I can access them!

So that’s a round-up of my most recent batch of Sewing For Self-Care posts. Definitely check out anything you’ve missed and be sure to show your support to the incredible bloggers who’ve shared their stories here. If you’d like to participate in the Sewing For Self-Care: Your Story series, please do be sure to get in touch. Even if you aren’t keen to have anything published on Sew For Victory but just want to talk, you can use any of the many social media avenues (linked at the top of the side bar) to reach out to me. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves.

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Enemy No. 1: Laura’s Serger

If you read last week’s project update post, you’ll know that I’m working on a new super cute vintage dress. I’m pretty obsessed with the pattern and the fabric is definitely a summer dream – so, needless to say, I got to work on it almost as soon as my Vintage Shirt Dress was finished up! So far, the construction process has been pretty amazing. I sometimes have problems following patterns from the bigger companies, mostly because they usually seem to assume a certain level of pre-existing knowledge about the pattern. Although I definitely think I’m past the point of being a beginner to sewing, I still appreciate a beginner’s approach to pattern instructions – an approach that I generally find it pretty typical with the various indie companies I’ve used.

That said, Simplicity is usually pretty good at giving enough instruction to avoid substantial problems and S8591 has been quite true to this trend so far. So, unusually, this mid-construction update post is not an opportunity to get frustrated with complicated instructions. Instead, I’m going to rant about my new ENEMY NUMBER 1 – Constantine the Serger.

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Although we’ve had our run-ins on a fairly regular basis (usually when he refuses to create a proper chain after my fifth rethreading), we’ve always found a way to work through our issues. In fact, I have always pretty well raved about him at any given opportunity. Serged edges look so professional and overlocking them has removed virtually all of my anxiety over washing my me-made garments for fear of fraying. I totally recommend a serger to anyone who is looking to take their sewing to the next level. They’re a pain to learn to thread for sure, but they’re definitely a worthwhile investment. This is not a statement that remains specific to my serger, however. He’s turned on me.

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The ironic thing with this incident is that I wasn’t even serging anywhere near the sleeve ruffle. The sleeves had been done and dusted for a while by this point – and that’s what makes this even harder to accept. I was serging the back seams and *somehow*, right at the end of the back seam, the sleeve just up and practically walked itself under the knife and needles. I genuinely have no idea how it happened. In fact, I am ridiculously careful anytime I have anything to do with cutting or finishing seams – largely because of the incident last year where I accidentally cut a massive hole in the back of my wedding dress muslin whilst trimming seams.

So there is no conclusion possible other than my certainty that Constantine the Serger is determined to destroy my projects and, ultimately, my life. If I never post again, you can assume he’s taken his quest for vengeance to its inevitable conclusion. But if I survive, you’ll find me digging for fabric remnants in the bin, in the hopes that I’ll find a piece large enough for a brand new ruffle! Keep your fingers crossed for me!

 

Vintage Shirt Dress (Sew Over It)

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My second make of Me Made May is here! And while I’m very aware of the fact that I call every new make my favourite, I think the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress might legitimately be one of my favourite patterns of all time. I’ve had it in my stash for ages – I bought it not long after I started sewing in 2015. But, I just never got around to making it. There were really two reasons for my avoidance: (1) I just couldn’t seem to find a fabric that stuck out as being super perfect for a shirt dress; and, (2) I was legitimately concerned about making that many buttonholes look neat and lined up. So I let the pattern gather dust on two separate continents, until I came across what is *definitely* my favourite fabric of all time – the Le Map design by Dear Stella.

All it took was a little Parisian flavour to make this amazing pattern happen. And, now, here’s the finished product….

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How many ways can I express my love for this pattern? I think one of my sewing mantras is fast becoming ‘when in doubt, make a Sew Over It pattern.’ Because they are SO easy to work with. I very rarely have issues with sizing, following instructions, or the fit. The process is just clean from start to finish.

As with my previous encounters with Sew Over It patterns, I used the size guide to determine the sizes I would cut – although I can’t remember which sizes these were. And I made zero alterations to the fit. The resulting fit is perfection. Just the right amount of ease whilst still looking tailored to my body. Just another success story for Sew Over It pattern sizing!

The construction itself posed few issues. I’d decided from the beginning that I wanted to make the version of the Vintage Shirt Dress with sleeves (there is a sleeveless version). I just really love the cuffs and am generally a sleeve gal. If you read my previous mid-construction post, you’ll know I had a problem figuring out the sleeves – the only construction issue that I ended up encountering. I would retype the whole saga here but it’s probably easier if you just follow the link to an explanation of my issues with sorting out the cuffs. Although I definitely think the pattern instructions could’ve been clearer on this point, it wasn’t a tough issue to resolve and I ended up with some super cute cuffs once I figured out the problem!

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Another feature of this pattern that I love is the skirt. I think the little pleats on the front are just adorable. They give the skirt a bit of extra shape and just make the whole dress look even cuter. I’m fortunate that the cotton I used was relatively weighty, which definitely helped to give the skirt a bit of extra structure and encouraged the pleats stand out.

I also needn’t have worried about the buttons. Going in, I was concerned about sewing the buttonholes without having them look wonky or misplaced. I’ve only had one experience sewing multiple buttonholes and that was with my Beignet Skirt a couple of months into my sewing journey. Needless to say, the buttonholes weren’t very well aligned! So I took extra time to make sure that my measurements were correct for each of the buttonholes on the Vintage Shirt Dress. It’s a good idea to experiment with button placement before sewing, just to make sure that you don’t end up with any gaping over the bust. Personally, I just ended up following the button placement as on the pattern and the dress is perfectly closed the whole way down the dress – no gaping at all!

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Another super sweet feature of this pattern is the neckline. I love the collar and lapels! They definitely give the dress its ‘shirty’ feel! In order to achieve a really crisp shape, I ended up using a medium-weight interfacing. This gets attached to the fabric facing and then sewn down the back and front of the dress. The combination of fabric and interfacing has worked incredibly well in this case – once pressed down, there’s been no movement from the lapels or collar. So they’re pretty reliably in place, meaning that I’m not having to constantly reposition them or press them back (which I find is often the case with lapels). So, if you’re thinking about making this pattern, the weight of the interfacing is definitely an important consideration!

Construction-wise, the collar and lapels were actually super simple. I did have a problem with size disparity between the facing and the dress shell. After attaching the iron-on interfacing, I found that it had shrunk the size of the facing slightly. So, when pinning the facing to the dress – specifically the collar – I did find that I had to stretch the facing out a bit in order to get it to fit. This didn’t end up posing much of a problem and the size discrepancy wasn’t especially big, but it’s definitely worth being aware!

I also just want to give a shout out to Sew Over It for the fact that their instructions include mentions of when it’s appropriate to finish your raw edges or seams. I think Sew Over It is the only pattern company I’ve used that does this, and it helps so much! I love that the pattern tells me where/when to serge so I don’t have to debate when it’s most appropriate. It also stops me waiting until the whole garment is together and having to spend hours just serging seams and feeling that life has lost all meaning.

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So, in summary, make this dress! I’m actually debating whether I’ll end up using my new fox fabric to make another version, because I’m so in love with this pattern. I think the whole thing probably came together in about 8ish hours (not including pattern/fabric cutting time) so it’s not too big a time investment either!

I think there are so many amazing things you could do with this pattern: add piping to the front; put ruffles on the ends of the sleeves instead of cuffs; add pockets! Or just make it as it is and you’ll still end up with a super chic dress! I’m really excited to experiment with some more versions of the Vintage Shirt Dress. Definitely the perfect make for a beautiful summer!