We’re so excited to launch a brand new column for 2018. Clothes Minded will focus on wardrobe planning, style considerations, finding your style and more, featuring a great list of sewists, bloggers and fashionistas. First up is Riva la Diva, who has immaculate style, definite sewing skills and an inspiring message about developing your own style.
Telling Your Story
Most of us don’t sit down and consider what we want our wardrobe to say about us. Sewing fashion is a passion of mine, though it’s often overlooked as a form of art. Art tells a story and makes you feel a certain way. Fashion is art. There’s a reason why the movies, television and theater shows have costume designers: They’re telling a story about specific characters.
What story are you telling with the clothes you wear?
When in school for fashion design, I learned that many fashion designers spend time considering the audience they design for when they create a collection. They ponder and research questions such as: Who is my audience? What are they wearing? What stage is she at in life? What is she hoping to feel when she tries on a garment? What story is she telling others when she puts it on? Most designers go more in-depth and think: How much money is she making? Is she a feminist? Is she in the workplace? Is she a housewife or mother, local socialite, all of the above? What part of the world does she reside?
Until I started my blog, RivaLaDiva.com, I never really thought about those questions for my personal style. If designers spent time thinking about what I was wearing and hoping to feel, why didn’t I think about that myself? I found myself in an oversized closet in a suburb outside of L.A. surrounded by endless boyfriend V-neck T-shirts from my favorite store in every hue imaginable, sometimes two of each. Naturally, I paired it with something from my endless collection of jeans and denim cutoffs. I had given myself a uniform and not even realized it. What’s more unfortunate is that I went to fashion school. I knew how to make interesting and beautiful clothing, yet somehow, I didn’t own a single garment that brought me excitement or that I made for myself. At the time, I was a brand-new mom for the fourth time, and I dressed the way I was feeling. I was in a rut. It was at that moment that I made the choice to be the fashion designer in my life. But where does one start?
To design for yourself (or anyone), know who you’re designing for. It’s amazing how much more you learn about yourself and your aesthetic when you write it down. When you do, keep it positive. Forget the world around you and focus on you in an environment free from self-criticism and comparison to others. The following questions are great inquiries to ask yourself. Keep the answers in a safe place to remind you who you are when you lose focus or want to re-evaluate for future reference. Here’s what that looks like for me.
Who am I? Married, mother of 4, living up to a name that rhymes with diva.
Who are my style icons? Hollywood bombshells. I love someone (or place) that’s super feminine and unapologetic about it.
What are your driving style values? Drama and romance. I have always been drawn to boldness in design, color, shape, silhouette, print, motivated by romance and beauty.
What are you about? I am a maximalist. More is BETTER. Bring on the gaudy.
What makes you “you”? I’m a fashion-sewing-blogger loving fool and embracing my own sense of style.
Step 2: Create a mood board.
When I lived in southern CA, I frequently visited the beach. I loved to drive through old neighborhoods near Hollywood. Art museums and gardens were my happy place. I love movies and music, and I’m also a sucker for foreign fashion magazines.
Find that special something that brings life and excitement to your world. Let it inspire you and review it often. With that said, sometimes you need to hunt that thing down because it may not be in your surroundings. It might exist across the world! Your mood board may consist of images and phrases on a poster board, inside a sketchbook, a Pinterest board or a file on your phone or computer. Use whatever resources help get you into the zone.
Step 3: Purge your current wardrobe.
I’m a big Project Runway fan, especially of mentor Tim Gunn. In his book Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style, Tim writes that we should all go through our closets and “clean house”. Inspired by the book, I examine my closet every season and divide my wardrobe into four categories: donate, trash, repair or alter and keep.
To follow suit, take time to look at each garment in your closet. If the garment doesn’t represent who you are and the story you want to tell, donate it. If you hesitate for half a second, donate it. If you don’t want to make time to alter or repair a garment (be honest), donate it. If it doesn’t fit but you hope it will one day, donate it. When in doubt, donate.
Step 4: Add new fabric and sewing patterns.
After reviewing what’s left in your closet, determine how to fill the gaps. Consider what classic pieces you need in your wardrobe and what fashion trends you’re willing to include. Search for fabrics and fashion patterns that address those needs and compare those choices to your mood board. Some people like to start with fashion patterns first, then fabric, or vice versa. I love both equally and some options speak louder than others. It’s sometimes a pain to find a perfect textile for a particular garment; other times there’s a pattern I need in my life. I like to keep my options open, stay flexible and move with inspiration as it presents itself.
When I share a bit of myself, it makes my creations special. It reminds me of who I want to be, where I am going and where I have been. If the fashion world can coin the phrase “power suit,” then why not create for yourself the perfect power top or dress? Some might say this is a little too deep for the subject of clothing and wardrobe planning, but I disagree. We may not all become the next Coco Chanel but we all can famously be the fashion designer of our own life and social sphere.