Today in my series of interviews with sewing bloggers on their connection between sewing & style, I’m delighted to feature Joost of Make My Pattern. I totally relate to what he has to say about finding that on his journey to find his personal style, he’s chasing a moving target. I’m delighted to share his thoughts on the connection between his ability to sew and his personal style.
My name is Joost, I live in Antwerp, and I work in Brussels. I like sewing and pattern design. I’m a bit of a geek, I love food, and people with a sense of humour. I’ve been sewing for four years now, and in that time it has slowly taken over most of my spare time.
I have a personal blog at joost.decock.org, but most of my sewing related online activity is concentrated at makemypattern.com, a website that generates sewing patterns based on your measurements. It’s free, should you wonder.
Describe what you sew
What I sew, the types of things I make, are determined by the fact that I don’t buy clothes. Four years ago, my new year’s resolution was to no longer buy, and instead make. Ever since, I’ve been on a mission to convert to an entirely self-made wardrobe.
As a result, what I make is mostly a matter of practicalities. If I need it, and can make it, I do. I started making underwear, T-shirts, trousers, and jeans. I made a new bag when my old one started falling apart, I needed a tie, so I made it.
Currently I am making shirts. I’m not happy yet, but as time goes by, I’ll get better at it, and will finally be able to have a few new shirts. After that, I hope to progress to waistcoats and jackets.
I hope to one day be able to make everything I need. I’m currently making shoes, as a sort of side project, and I hope to come up with a way to make socks. I still buy those, as I don’t knit.
Describe your style
I aim to distil style into all things I make. The way they are cut, the quality of the materials, how one combines things. Style is what makes good clothes, it is not merely what I find pretty. While I may not like double-breasted jackets, I can still appreciate a stylish exemplar.
But style is not an easy concept to grasp. Countless of infographics on Pinterest would have you believe that it is: These are rules for the stylish gentlemen. Follow them and you are sorted.
No. It does not work that way. Unless you want to merely imitate what you see on TV, discovering your own style is hard. You may instinctively recognize something as stylish. Consciously designing and making something that has that same effect is quite another thing.
For example, I really like what Ann Demeulemeester does. But it would never occur to me to copy her designs. Instead, I want to find my own path, and hopefully get to a place where things look just as good.
I am on a journey to find my style, but I don’t think I have found it yet. Maybe I never will, but will merely get closer to it. Or maybe it’s a moving target.
What inspires or influences your style?
Influence is difficult to account for. I steer clear of fashion. The hot new colour, how wide the jacket lapels are, or how long the trousers. I could not care less about all of that. But it would be naive to think that it doesn’t influence me, even if it’s only subconsciously.
Same with feedback. If I make something I am happy with, yet people tell me it looks terrible, that will have an influence. No matter how stubborn I try to be in ignoring it. Obviously, it works the other way too, with positive feedback.
Inspiration, on the other hand, is easy: beauty inspires me. It is all around us. Sometimes in plain sight, sometimes delicately hidden. But it’s there, and it makes me want to make things that are beautiful too.
How does your passion for sewing influence your style?
There’s what I want, and what I can have. When buying, I was typically limited by what I could afford. When sewing, while money plays a role too, I tend to bump into the limits of what I can do first.
I am still learning, getting better. That hinders my style in the sense that I may have a wonderful jacket in my head, but until I am able to make it, I will never wear that jacket. On the other hand, it also enables, for when I want jeans that are such and so, I can simply make them.
When my sewing limits me, my self-imposed buying embargo makes it worse. The other day I wanted to wear a shirt to a fancy party. But I haven’t yet made one that is good enough. Meanwhile, all my other shirts were bought at least four years ago. Even the best shirt will show four years of wear, not to mention that sometimes, you just like to have something new to wear to a party.
I still settled for the old shirt, rather than buy a new one. But I didn’t feel great about it.
What about in the beginning: Did you learn to sew so that you could have a certain style?
No. I learned to sew because I wanted to make things, not because I wanted to own things.
When I started, I made things that closely mimicked what I was already wearing. So it wasn’t a radical style departure. It was not driven by a desire to have different things to wear.
Making clothes unlocked a more concious approach to clothes and style. But that was not something I set out for. I wanted to be able to do it, and I wanted to wear things I had made with my own hands. Only over time did my sewing start to influence my style.
Does your style require that you are able to sew?
Up until recently, I would have said no. The things I make are not that far-fetched that I would not be able to buy them. But now I started making shoes, and that changes things. I wear shoe size 52 (17 in the US) and finding shoes has been a nightmare for me ever since I was a teenager.
When I start wearing my own shoes (I am still working on my first pair), sewing will become a requirement for my style. That’s because what I’m making simply is not for sale in my size.
Anything else you would like to say about sewing and style?
This may be obvious, but it’s worth pointing out that, as a man, things are different for me. Simpler. I can limit myself to a selection of basic pieces, try to get good at making them, and through variation and combination build up a full wardrobe.
If I was a woman, things would be different. I would have to severely limit my wardrobe options if I wanted to make all of my clothes.
What I’m saying is, what works for me might not work for you. Nevertheless, finding your own way and your own style is a journey worth traveling.