Me-Made-May 2015: Week 1 Round-up

What an eventful 10 days it’s been! If you’ve been following my blog or my instagram, you’d undoubtedly have noticed me hashtag #MMMay15 , heard about my Me-Made-May pledge or seen me wearing my me-made outfits over the last 10 days.

Before MMM I didn’t use to wear my handmade garments a whole lot, even though many of them were wardrobe staples or could easily be worn on a daily basis – I seem to be more of a “cake” than “icing” person in that sense. Maybe it was a lack of confidence in my workmanship, or perhaps I felt that certain makes didn’t fit me right, I’m not quite sure anymore. All I know now is that since the 1st of May I’ve been wearing at least one me-made garment a day and have been loving it! If the last 10 days have been any indication, I think MMM is going to be a roaring success in helping me to get over my me-made clothing insecurities and in proving to myself that a handmade wardrobe is most definitely achievable!

Day 1

I spent the labour day weekend on a beach holiday in Bintan with a group of friends so what could be more appropriate for the occasion than my beloved Tessuti Patterns Pineapple Ruby Top! This is one favourite that I always reach for on casual days.

Day 2

Still in Bintan, Indonesia, and this time spending the day lounging by the pool and on the beach. My garment of choice was a self-drafted kimono throwover made of some kind of polyester that I picked up in Walthamstow last summer.

Day 3

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The beach bumming continues in my as-yet unblogged Seamwork Savannah Camisole made from some kind of shiny slippery (I think poly?) fabric that I got from some bargain bin in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong. Also featured today is Mr Fabulous (LOL he’s going to kill me for that one) because it happened to be his birthday that day.

Day 4

Back to the daily grind in my yellow Coco Banana Top (Tilly & the Button’s Coco Top in a yellow double knit) to the amusement of my colleagues. For context, I hardly ever wear colours at work – I mostly stick to a neutral palette of black, grey and navy – I guess this is another positive consequence of MMM!

Day 5

Throughout the last 10 days I’ve become acutely aware of the lack of work-appropriate tops amongst my handmade collection – this is the latest addition which has yet to be blogged. For Tuesday I opted to wear my new Sewaholic Pendrell Blouse in view A made from a cobalt blue and purple bird print chiffon, underlined with navy cotton lawn. I made this originally for the April The Monthly Stitch challenge, but have put off blogging about it because it doesn’t feel right. This is one make that I’m not loving – for one I put in one of the sleeves wrong, and for another I feel like the sleeves overwhelm my frame. I’m more used to clean cut sleeves or normal sleeved tops and generally tend to avoid frilly or ruffly sleeves… I’ll have to think about this one, but I’m quite convinced that I’m going to end up taking the sleeves off and changing it to a View C instead – what a pity!

Day 6

Hump day in my denim Delia Creates’ Pleated Pencil Skirt! This was one make that I did up but never wore to work (although that was the intention of making it in the first place!) because I felt that it didn’t fit right. I don’t know what gave me that impression because when I put it on again this time it fit like a glove and is by far the most comfy pencil skirt that I own! I suspect it has something to do with the pictures I took – lesson learned: don’t just rely on pictures to assess fit, and if you do, for goodness sakes stand still and stop twisting about!

Day 7 and 8

Confession time: I wore this skirt two days in a row because it was JUST SO COMFY. Also, because I had a client meeting on Friday and the outfit I had had in mind for casual Friday was just too casual for it. This is the new Itch to Stitch Lindy Petal Skirt which I just blogged about earlier this week! I’ve had a ton of really nice comments about it already so if you like it too then be sure to head on over to Itch to Stitch and download the pattern – it’s free!

Day 9

Saturday is by far my favourite day of the week – no work and Monday is a whole day away, what could be better?! Plus I usually spend some part of my Saturday with either of 2 cell groups I attend and it’s always great to spend meaningful time in fellowship with friends and God. For Day 9 I wore my Tulip Skirt made from some unidentified navy cotton fabric that feels of a similar weight to broadcloth. It’s also embellished with adorable double yellow buttons that I scored at Portobello Market last summer, and yellow topstitching (both of which were suggestions by Fiona over at Fiona Makes, thank you!). The general feel of the skirt is just a little too twee for my taste, so I’ve hardly worn it since making it. Again, I’m so glad for MMM because wearing it for a full day yesterday revealed just how comfy it is!! You can definitely count on seeing more of this skirt pattern on the blog in the future.

Day 10

Happy Mother’s Day to my momma and all other yummy mummies out there! For church and Mother’s Day lunch today I wore my refashioned / altered crop top and a teal midi skirt I bought in Hong Kong. I ended up regretting not wearing something with an elasticated waistband after being faced with this mountain of food:

Doing Mother’s Day brunch right – GO BIG OR GO HOME #hokkienmeecoma #orhluahmadness #thehuens

A photo posted by jessiehuen (@jessiehuen) on May 10, 2015 at 12:35am PDT

And that’s the round-up of week 1! If you’d like to see what I’m wearing for the rest of Me Made May then be sure to follow me on instagram (@jessiehuen) or to check back here every Sunday! Fingers crossed I’d have come up with a better photo taking routine so that I can stop awkwardly begging friends to take them for me (I’m not going to have many friends left at the end of this…)

Culottes Conundrum // Styling the Emily Culottes

Up till recently, I would not have been caught dead wearing a pair of culottes. It’s not that I hated them – in fact, I loved everything about them… except when they were on me. The thing about culottes is that they have the very real potential to be the most unflattering garment ever. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve put on a pair of wide-legged culottes only to take them right off again because (a) it made my child-bearing hips look bigger than they already were and (b) the below-knee length made my legs look shorter than ever before! It wasn’t long before I wrote this trend off as a “model-only” look… but I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

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Some of you may have been following along with my wardrobe architect journey (soon to be continued – I’m sorry it’s been a while!), and it’s been really helpful for identifying the kind of silhouettes and shapes that work for me. When trying to decide how to style my Itch to Stitch Emily Culottes, I applied some of the concepts I learnt through the WA Challenge and realised it makes a HUGE difference when I follow a few simple styling rules that I’ll be sharing with you guys today.

Now I’m not claiming to be a style expert and I’m not saying that all these tips will work for everyone – the aim of this post today is to share a little about the styling rules I’ve employed to make the culottes trend work on my 5′ 3″ pear-shaped frame. I’m hoping that these tips will help encourage some of you to give this trend a shot and will be useful in helping you to figure out what works on your body and what doesn’t! Alright, ready? Here we go!

Rule #1. Dark colours on the bottom, light on the top.

Let’s start with basics, shall we? Everyone knows that dark colours have a slimming effect and light colours have a broadening effect, but sometimes we forget that this applies to loose clothing as well.

As you can see from my first version of the Emily Culottes, I was too romanced by the idea of white culottes that I forgot my own rule and made one up in a oyster-toned cream. Below you can see what a huge difference a dark top and light pants make to my appearance as compared to a lighter coloured top and dark pants.

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Rule #2. Always mind your proportions. 

This is something that a lot of you may have heard of or already apply in your styling. Personally, it took me 23 years to even begin to understand this concept and I’m still learning more about it every day! Your proportions play a huge role in determining how you appear – we can look shorter or taller, bigger or leaner, more bootylicious or less, all based on how we allow our clothing to dictate our proportions.

Credit to Style Makeover HQ.com

For instance, if you know you have a long torso, wear your culottes higher waisted to balance out your proportions. This should also have the added advantage of letting the culottes sit at the smallest point of your waist, thereby accentuating the fit and flare silhouette. Conversely, if you have a short torso, wear them at your natural waist or lower to make it seem like you have a lower waistline and to balance out your longer legs (lucky you!).

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I included two pictures of Posh (aka VB aka Queen of Not-Smiling) so that you could see how wearing a pair of culottes higher waist or lower waist makes a difference to a person’s proportions. Note how Posh looks like she has a slightly longer torso in the middle picture, and a slightly stunted torso in the right hand side one. (I can’t believe she looks great in both photos, what IS she?!)

Rule #3. Fit & Flare

Fit and flare is one way I manage my proportions and balance out my figure. Since culottes are usually flared or loose fitting, I pair them with a fitted top to balance out my figure. The interesting about culottes for pears, is that if your culottes are structured and voluminous enough, they can actually hide the size of your hips! Paired with a fitted top, this means that you will overall look slimmer.

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My favourite look is to pair my Emily Culottes with a crop top (though this houndstooth one reveals a little too much of my belly for my liking), as it doesn’t need to be tucked in and therefore eliminates bulk at the waistline. This creates an illusion of a slimmer waistline (when measurements-wise, I don’t have a clearly defined waist!) which is always a good idea.

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If you’re uncomfortable with fitted tops or crop tops, then by all means pick a longer top with a looser fit! Just make sure your top is fitted at the shoulders or the sleeves, like this boxy top below…

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Or sleeveless, to balance out the overwhelming amount of coverage you’re getting below the waist.

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I’ve seen quite a few pictures on pinterest where culottes are styled with an oversized top and sweater – and those people look great! But from what I’ve experimented on myself, that style doesn’t work for me, as it only seems to add bulk on my frame. Nevertheless, if you think that style works for you, go for it! It’s all about what you feel good in.

Rule #4. The longer the pants, the higher the heel.

This is a rule that I live by and apply universally across ALL my outfits. As I mentioned in one of my Wardrobe Architect posts, long bottoms (i.e. below the knee) create the appearance of shorter legs. By wearing heels, you restore your proportions and create the illusion of a longer leg. (Plus, if you’ve got thunder thighs like me, heels also help to create the appearance of a longer, leaner leg.)

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Compare how I look wearing heeled loafers vs flat loafers in the picture above. It doesn’t look bad, but my legs look longer and overall, I look more proportionate in the left picture than on the right. (These pictures were taken within an hour of each other… I have no idea why I look so different??)

Also, is it just me but does wearing culottes with flats automatically make one seem like they’re either channelling the boho vibe or the japanese look?

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There’s nothing wrong with the boho or japanese styles, but they just aren’t for me. If you love them, then more power to you! You get to wear your culottes with comfy flats while my toes get pinched and blistered for the sake of vanity (cue crying emoji).

Note: Conversely, the shorter the hemline, the lower the heel. When a skirt or shorts hits more than 2 or 3 inches above the knee, I opt to wear flats – this helps to tone down the skankiness of the outfit and is also a LOT more comfortable! This may be why I am able to get away with wearing kitten heels in these pictures – because my culottes are only knee length!

Rule #5. Experiment on yourself!

And last, but certainly not least, if there is only one rule you should remember… it’s that there are no rules! I know this is extremely lame and cliched, but it IS true. Nobody should dictate how you dress, or what you feel comfortable in – what’s important is that YOU feel good about how you look.

Some of the places you can look to for help are fashion websites or pinterest for inspiration on how to style your clothing – just remember that what works for fashion bloggers and models may not look or feel right on you or me, which is fine! With a little time and experimentation you’ll be able to identify what shapes and styles look good on you, even when it’s someone else wearing it (psst, this also helps with online shopping!). I’ve put together a pinterest board of culotte styles that I really love and will be trying out here – check it out if you’re interested!

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Plus… if you’re loving my culottes, the pattern is still on sale over on Itch to Stitch’s website! To read my review on the pattern, click here

If you’ve got a pinterest board of your own or recommendations to style or fashion blogs, feel free to share them with me in the comments below, I would love to see them! Also, if you would like to see more of these posts or recommendations on articles for proportions and styling that I’ve found useful, shout out and let me know!

Note: All photos used in this post that do not belong to me have been sourced from my pinterest board here.

Culottes Convert // The Itch to Stitch Emily Culottes Pattern

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I’ve always straddled the line somewhere between tomboy and girly girl, so it’s little surprise that growing up culottes were my favourite thing ever – a skirt that allows me to climb over railings and won’t expose my granny underpants whenever a gust of wind comes my way? YES, PLEASE. Sadly, culottes went strictly out of fashion in my teen years and eventually were eliminated from my wardrobe… UNTIL NOW.

I’ve been watching the culottes trend with great interest since they first started emerging in high street fashion last Spring, and while I was convinced that wide-legged, midi length trousers were going to be a fashion disaster on my short pear frame, I really wanted one. Needless to say, when Itch to Stitch Patterns put out a call for pattern testers for the Emily Culottes, I jumped at the chance. Thankfully, Kennis decided to allow this rookie (me) into her team of experienced pattern testers and the rest is history. You guys, I love these culottes SO MUCH and I hope you’ll give the pattern a try so you can love it as much as I do!!

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This was my first time using an Itch to Stitch pattern, and straight off the bat I found a whole lot of things I like about it. For one, the pdf pattern allows you to print in layers – this means that you can print a single size to piece together; or you can print as many sizes as you like to grade between! Another plus are the great instructions included – I had no problems at all following the instructions (and trust me, I followed them for every step, because I wouldn’t have known what to do without them). I especially like the invisible zipper insertion technique which I had never employed before – it got me my first perfectly aligned waistband across a zipper!

I opted to make the simplest version of the Emily Culottes possible ie. no pockets, waist tabs or waist tie, no lining and shortened by only 1.5cm, as it offered a classic, clean, almost tailored look that I was looking for. If I make this up again (and I’m sure I will) I’d probably attempt the welt pockets – seeing all the beautiful welt pockets by the other pattern testers have really whetted my welt pocket appetite!

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I made up 2 versions of the culottes – first the white in shot cotton, then the navy in broadcloth. As you can see from the white version (above), the shot cotton ended up wrinkling really easily and you guys, these wrinkles WILL NOT COME OUT. I have tried to press the life out of this thing, but the wrinkles will not budge… so I suppose this make is destined for the refashioning bin.

As for the navy broadcloth version – is it an exaggeration to say that it has made me a complete culottes convert? (Alliteration, yeah!) It does wrinkle when I sit, but it irons out easily and is a lot less wrinkle-prone (and cheaper) than the shot cotton I used in the earlier make.

For the navy version, I cut and sewed a straight size 2. This resulted in the culottes sitting at the natural waist, but due to my long torso and short legs, I wanted it to sit at my high waist instead. To do this, I took out about 3/4″ from the centre back seam and redrew the curve back into the original crotch curve.

A word of caution: the waistband is cut on the bias, which means it can stretch out a LOT if you’re not careful. This happened to my white pair, which caused it to sit on my hips rather than my waist! Kennis has helpfully written up a couple of posts with some helpful tips on handling the waistband here.

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I think this is a really versatile pattern which is easily customisable according to your personal style. I tend towards a more classic silhouette and due to my height, prefer a shorter length (knee-length). Despite this, I can easily imagine this pattern being lengthened to make true midi culottes, or shortened with an added pleat to make a pair of mid-thigh skorts. If you’re worried about whether or how these culottes will / can work for you, then remember to swing by here next Monday for a post on the different ways I’ve styled these culottes for my petite pear-shape!

In the meantime, Kennis is having a sale on this pattern for US$9.60 (U.P. US$12) here! She’s also giving away a copy of the pattern for free so if you’re a giveaway lover (I know I am) then be sure to enter the giveaway here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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And now I leave you with this wannabe-Vogue accidental-mohawk shot for your viewing pleasure. Come on now, any garment that lets you get THAT much movement in whilst still looking somewhat classy is a keeper amirite?