Today in my series of interviews with sewing bloggers on their connection between sewing & style, I’m delighted to feature Heather Lou of Closet Case Files. I love this gal’s style. Feminine without being too girly, elegant without being too stuffy. And she rocks delicious red lipstick! My feelings for her went from blogger crush to fangirl with the release of her Bombshell Swimsuit. I’m delighted to share her thoughts on the connection between her ability to sew and her personal style.
Hi! I’m Heather Lou and I am a Montreal based sewist, blogger and designer. I’ve sewn my whole life but began taking it really sewing seriously a few years ago; I started my blog as a way to document my process. Becoming a part of our inspiring online community and studying this craft has totally changed my life in so many positive, exciting ways. I released my first pattern last year, The Bombshell Swimsuit, after drafting it for myself and realizing other people were also looking for a flattering bathing suit pattern. This year I’ll be releasing a few more patterns (all designed to fill holes I see in the pattern market) as I continue to document my personal sewing journey over at Closet Case Files.
Describe your style.
This is an idea I’ve been wrestling with over at my blog. Even though sewists tend to work outside the traditional fashion cycle, I still feel pressure to somehow define “my look”. The truth is, it’s an eclectic mix of a lot of eras and influences. I love high vintage as much as I love conceptual, more avant garde designs. Day to day, I would say my look is pretty classic with some modern or vintage flourishes depending on my mood when I wake up. The common theme seems to be a general love of glamour, and a proclivity towards more fitted, feminine silhouettes. I love a full skirt and a clingy top, chic shift or sheath dresses, skinny pants and a drapey blouse, maxi or mini hems and the occasional peek of skin. I adore bright colours and bold prints but this winter has been very monochromatic for me; I’ve been living in white, grey and cream.My relationship with clothing is really emotional, so what I’m wearing is generally a reflection of what is going on with me internally on any given day.
Describe what you sew.
I’m pretty much making everything besides socks and tights these days. I try to avoid buying commercial clothing as much as humanly possible; most “new” clothes are acquired from clothing swaps with friends. My decision to stop shopping started as an experiment and has pretty much morphed into a way of life.
I’ve become more ambitious over the years. I love sewing lingerie and this year I’ll be focusing on outerwear, drafting pants,and making a few very special and detailed pieces.
What inspires or influences your style?
What doesn’t?! I’m a big people watcher and I’ve been known to follow women down the street to get a better look at what they’re wearing. I take screenshots of movies with beautiful costumes. I love going to the library and pouring through books on fashion history, and obviously I don’t know how I survived before Pinterest.I used to be a big magazine reader, but a few years ago I had a bit of an awakening in regards to my consumerist tendencies. It became really hard to read Vogue without feeling like the whole enterprise was a little ethically bankrupt. These days, I prefer to be inspired more organically. In general, it’s other DIY bloggers who get me really excited about fashion and style.
I look at every day as a chance to play dress-up. How do you play dress-up?
I’m lucky to have a small room in my apartment that acts as a closet, and it makes getting dressed really fun. Even though I tend to go through phases where I’m only wearing a few specific things, it’s nice to have the space to see my entire wardrobe all at once. Getting dressed is a creative and emotional exercise for me, so choosing my outfit for the day is really about how I want to feel, what I want to do, what image I want to project. Nothing makes me happier than taking the time to get ready to go out at night. I like to have a glass of wine, play some music, try different stuff on, prance around in high heels and tinker with make-up. I’m really looking forward to spring because I’ve been mostly in comfies for the last few months and I miss dressing up!
How does your passion for sewing influence your style? enable your style? hinder your style?
Sewing blew the barn doors off for me. When I was still shopping, I was really limited by what was “in style” or what I could score at the thrift store. Shopping vintage was always a tricky proposition because most of the time the perfect dress didn’t fit or was made of polyester. Learning to sew meant I was really only limited by my own imagination – it’s an incredibly liberating feeling to be able to make whatever you want, especially if you’re someone who loves fashion but doesn’t have a huge budget.
I think in the beginning of my sewing career, my choices were a little schizophrenic. I was so excited to be making clothes I wasn’t necessarily doing it in the most thoughtful way. As I’ve developed as a sewist, my choices are much more considered and methodical. I have a vision now of my dream wardrobe and I’m slowly adding pieces that I know I will wear for years. My taste has become much more refined and I try to only work with really beautiful materials.
The classic fashion lesson about investing in quality over quantity only ever registered for me once I began making things for myself. You want the things you slave over to be worth the time. I suppose the fear of making mistakes means that I might not make the same kinds of really bold decisions that I admire so much with people like Oona and Mokosha. The lesson I’m learning is to stay a little spontaneous, to take risks and not beat myself up too much if it doesn’t work out.
Does your passion for sewing influence the style of those around you?
This is an interesting question! I’ve definitely had a few friends express interest in learning to sew after seeing some of my makes, but not many have followed up on my offer to teach them. I think it feels overwhelming if you’ve never done it before, but I’m hoping to have more time this year to start some workshops in my home. I’m also hoping to make my boyfriend some things this year. He’s VERY picky about what he likes, but I think I can make him some selvedge denim he’ll love.
What about over time: Has your style changed with time? Have your sewing abilities changed with time? Has a change in style caused you to change your sewing abilities? Has a change in sewing abilities caused you to change your style?
My sewing abilities are definitely far advanced from where I started, but I think that’s the case with everyone who takes this hobby seriously. You get more ambitious as you go along, and you learn the skills you need to accomplish your goals. As I got better at making things, I stopped working with cheap fabric and started investing in beautiful, more luxurious materials. It’s a very holistic learning process. What you want to make will guide you to what you need to know, especially in our brilliant community where everyone is sharing their process and skills so freely. I still have a lot to learn and will likely spend the rest of my life perfecting my craft but I love the journey.
When you sew, you get to know your body really well. I’ve learned what works for me and I think my style has evolved as a result of that knowledge. At this point I know immediately whether a silhouette will work for me or not. I taught myself to design and grade patterns because sometimes what I wanted to make was not available. It’s allowed me to not only customize things for myself, but share my ideas with other people. Sewing rules.
What about in the beginning: Did you learn to sew so that you could have a certain style?
I taught myself to sew because I was sick of being a slave to the fast fashion cycle and I wanted to wear things that I could feel good about. The first dress I ever made was from a vintage 70’s pattern and I think I blew my own mind when I realized I could make ALL OF THE VINTAGE DRESSES and they would always fit perfectly and never be made from polyester. The first few years were pretty vintage heavy. I was drunk on my vintage making power. Lately I’ve been attracted to more modern styles but I will always have a huge soft spot for 70’s fashion.
Does your style require that you are able to sew?
No. I love modern fashion as much as I love clothing from other eras, so I was always able to find stuff I liked before I started sewing. I would definitely say sewing has let my style blossom, but I was always creative with clothing even before I started making everything myself.
Anything else you would like to say about sewing and style?
I think we are seeing a renaissance of sewing that is part of a much bigger movement away from the empty promises of materialism. We are waking up to the fact that our consumer choices can have a devastating impact on the environment, and the people who are suffering to make the stuff we take for granted in the Western world. I see more and more people every day who want to make instead of buy, and our world is better off because of it. Style doesn’t have to be dictated by Anna Wintour, and it doesn’t have to come from a sweatshop. It can come from our own hands.
Sewing empowers us. It gives us creative agency to tell the world who we are. It teaches us confidence, ingenuity and patience. It unites us in an intelligent, generous, wise and loving community that revolves around skill sharing and mutual support. I think this movement, and this community, is only going to grow and become more powerful and influential, and I am so incredibly grateful to be a part of it.