Style crisis: You say ‘tomato’, I say ‘shirt’

Tomato shirt topper

In an ideal world, this is the post where I would swan into shot on my newly-minted vlog (Ha! Don’t hold your breath…) sashaying elegantly to a tall stool. There, poised and articulate I would announce myself transformed; an accurate representation of my stylish inner self, only slightly distracted by the sound of my alarm clock going off…

Nope – not happening. No surprise that the reality is a little more prosaic. I have dipped my toe into the waters of my new personal style adventure and come up with – a shirt! Now – hold onto your hairpieces there, people – I know it’s not the most inventive of directions but the aim here at least in part, was for me to understand a bit more about me and my style. I’m sure I won’t be challenging Stella McCartney any time soon – and frankly you could probably drape me head-to-foot in Dior and it wouldn’t stop me behaving like a Duracell bunny with an inappropriate sense of humour.

A shirt was the first thing on my list – something cool (in the practical, rather than stylish sense – let’s be realistic) to wear with jeans in the summer. Not only did I make it – but I road-tested it for the day, too. Here’s how it went.

The pattern

Tried and tested, all over the Internet – Vogue Pattern 8772. Minimal agonising here – I had it to hand, knew it just needed a small bust adjustment (SBA) and I liked the idea of a no-sleeves, tunic length version.

Vogue Pattern 8772

Vogue Pattern 8772

Plus, it has a little bit of dart-shaping – enough to give it a bit of shape but not so much as to be too fitted. So off we went, with View E; sleeveless, tunic-length, proper collar, no bow.

The fabric

I’ve had my eye on our Coral-floral printed purple cotton lawn fabric for some time. It first arrived last summer and the colours cheered me up right the way through a long, dark winter, glowing in the cotton store. I wanted to try a cotton lawn for the shirt – and was already inclined towards it for this project when comments on my last Style Crisis post suggested purples and tomato-reds as being colours which might work well with my colouring.

I needed no further encouragement. Stepping away from black and grey was a definite goal for this project and not only does this fabric feature a background of purple and a print pattern of tomato reds – upon closer inspection those red berries almost looked like little tomatoes. Or pomegranates, perhaps? Rosehips? Who knows – tomato-ey enough for a decision to be made.

The making

I think this has to be the cheeriest make I remember. I knew that something was different when I realised that my black/grey/navy/white overlocker threads weren’t going to do the trick – and rummaging in my thread box I found a set of red ones. Red – I ask you! Unheard of hereabouts.

Tomato shirt overlocking

Cheery red overlocking!

Overlocking pattern pieces prior to construction is one of my pleasures in life – it makes me feel in control, organised and tidy. Not a feeling that ever lasts long in my experience – but it served to launch me into my Happy Place with a smile on my face. And in fact, that smile stayed put throughout.

Having shortened the back length by 1.5cm and reduced the bust darts down a size, I risked going without a toile having made the pattern up once before as a sample and knowing it was fairly true-to-size. For once my judgement was fairly accurate; a quick try-on after the main pattern pieces were assembled was reassurance enough on that front.

Rather than hope for an entire day to make my shirt (another entry in my ‘favourite dreams’ catalogue) I spent a happy wet Sunday afternoon followed by a few hours here and there later in the week. I’m a great subscriber to Lladybird’s belief that ‘little and often’ is the key to getting a sewing project done and although I do need a fair run at a project to get it going, I’m fine picking it up in shorter sessions thereafter. (Just in case anyone was wondering, running ClothSpot doesn’t magically conjure up lots of sewing time – quite the opposite.)

Happily however there were no disasters to report. (Something to do with no sleeves to sew on back-to-front, I imagine.) Top-stitching the collar reminded me that I really do need to do more practicing – one collar point requiring a couple of re-runs. My only pattern gripe was with the sleeve binding method. It’s not the first time I’ve had an issue with patterns instructing me to create binding using the main fabric and sew my binding strips in a circle prior to attaching to the armhole. In my experience, the binding strips always, always end up too large, necessitating much unpicking and re-sewing. Any suggestions as to why would be greatly appreciated.

The fabric however was a dream to work with. Stable and well-behaved, it kept its structure throughout (even while unpicking and restitching the aforementioned collar point) and pressed up a dream. My machine (a Janome Atelier 3 which I still think of as ‘excitingly new’ nearly two years on) created 10 perfect buttonholes with ease (oh, joy!) and we were away.

Tomato collar close up

Loving a proper shirt collar

The wearing

This is where it all gets a little weird. I happily went to it on the Monday morning with my (increasingly dishevelled) jeans and my brand new orange clog sandals. Orange is a new shoe colour for me (as I suspect it would be for most) but I felt an infectious jolliness from my shirtmaking when I ordered them with my birthday money. On went the shirt and off I nipped to the local shop to pick up milk and ClothSpot’s traditional Monday lunchtime soup. Walking into the shop, a polite chap stood back from the door to let me through and smiled. Not in a dodgy way – just a cheery smile. Then at the checkout the store assistant commented on my scent and told me all about the perfume her husband had recently bought her. Definitely not the kind of reaction I usually expect – not that people aren’t friendly  round here – quite the opposite. It just seemed…different. My ClothSpot colleagues were enthusiastic (although one of them should know that I caught that look of amused scepticism that she flashed around the workroom).

Alice in tomato shirt

The big reveal. (Ignore the hair. Apparently I did…)

It all went a bit downhill when we had a rescheduled visit from a supplier in the afternoon. My usual habit is to make a selection of fabrics then play with then on the floor so I can decide what works and how. The clogs came off as their wooden soles wouldn’t flex as I squatted on my knees. I then discovered I’d over-cut a buttonhole on my midriff which annoyingly refused to hold onto its button. Finally, kneeling on the floor for half an hour rendered my holey jeans even more so. As a work outfit then, this clearly wasn’t the ‘killer app’ I’d hoped for

The feeling

In my last Style Crisis post I listed all the ways I’d like my new wardrobe might make me feel more like me. There are some feelings I was searching for that my red and purple shirt delivered on; I did indeed feel ‘fresh’, ‘lively’ and ‘energised’. Partly to do with the colours; also the sleevelessness of the shirt worked for me on a hot day. I was cheery and jolly – and, apparently, so was everyone else around me. I’m suspect they weren’t responding to my shirt; is it actually possible they were reacting to the liveliness and good humour that I was projecting, partly as a result of wearing vibrant, happier colours? The jury is still out…

I’m less certain that this is a garment that made me feel ‘inspired’ or ‘connected’ however – and I’m pretty certain that it doesn’t fit my definition of ‘sophistication’, ‘elegance’ or a number of other criteria that I’d set for it. And as it turned out, my outfit as a whole wasn’t particularly practical either – certainly not for the job in hand that afternoon.

The colours I loved, actually. It was just that I had a sense that the scale and style of the print pattern were perhaps less ‘me’. I’m not so used to wearing such a small-scale, delicate print – and just maybe I should have warned myself off wearing actual tomatoes, as opposed to the colour. In addition I think that a longer tunic shape might have worked better in a less crisp, more flowing fabric. So – I might well have another go at the pattern – but possibly with a more draping fabric in a simpler design.

The decision

Keep or give away? Well – it’s hard to contemplate abandoning so quickly a garment that I enjoyed making and which in part, I enjoyed wearing. I’m going to hang on to it for the summer to see if it’s the kind of thing I might like wearing on a holiday road trip or to the seaside. I think it might cheer any of those – but if it doesn’t get that opportunity, even during summer weather like this, then realistically it’s not the style for me.

Opinions are welcome as as ever! Meanwhile a new shirt pattern has just arrived from France and I’m eyeing up our ‘Café Bleu’ rippling navy blue Irish linen fabric

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6 Responses to Style crisis: You say ‘tomato’, I say ‘shirt’

  1. Judith

    This fabric looks remarkably like Liberty’s yew berries classic design, not tomatoes! But it suits you very well. But if it’s warm enough for sleeveless, isn’t it too warm for jeans?

    June 23, 2017 at 10:37 pm
    • ClothSpot

      Judith you are probably right about the ‘yewberries’ – this isn’t a Liberty fabric but it ‘takes its inspiration’ from one I think. Thank you for spotting the connection! On the jeans front – they’re a) thin denim b) full of holes and c) shamefully, my only non-legging, none-gardening, non-running trousers. Can’t think what my next project probably needs to be, then…. Thanks for the colour encouragement!

      June 28, 2017 at 3:02 pm
  2. Di

    Well I think the shirt suits you, as does the colour/length. The Liberty look design is a bit ‘ditsy’ but it is summery. Don’t get rid of it–there are other ways to wear a sleeveless shirt. Why not wear it open, or semi open with a cami or sleeveless jersey T under it–in a toning colour of course ie one of the colours in the print. It becomes a sleeveless jacket.
    The reason why the locals smiled at you is that colours that suit your complexion, especially when worn near the face, make you look better/happier. I have a pink raincoat and when I wear it people comment how well I look (as in healthy), even when I’m having an ‘off’ day, or say ‘lovely colour’. So –a navy linen shirt is the next item to be sewn. Good with some bright jeans (other than the standard blue denim) or bright topstitching (white /yellow/ red/ lime green/bright turquoise/orange, to match your sandals etc) and don’t forget the buttons which don’t all have to be navy.

    June 25, 2017 at 4:17 pm
    • ClothSpot

      Di thank you for your comments and I’m pleased you got your browser sorted! You’re right – I can layer it and wear it open – I hadn’t thought of that. Your decoding of why I got a positive reaction makes a lot of sense. It’s interesting what you say about your pink raincoat – I am about to go off to a meeting and so I will put my bright pink jacket on over the (inevitably) black dress I’m wearing – and see if I can elicit a grin or two! And I promise I will think twice about that navy shirt. As Judith highlights out in her comment, I suspect a summer trouser is probably more of a piority…

      June 28, 2017 at 3:06 pm
  3. Hayley

    I love it! I’ve really enjoyed these posts, and your shirt looks really well made, and I think it suits you.

    The binding being too big – it sounds like it’s stretching out because it’s cut on the bias. Be sure to handle it as little as possible and keep it flat – don’t drape it over the back of a chair or anything. Maybe spray starch would help it keep it’s shape?

    And one final cheat I do: before sewing the binding into a circle, compare it again to the pattern piece, and if it has stretched out a bit, just trim it back to size. It will be a tiny bit narrower, but oh well.

    June 27, 2017 at 2:18 pm
    • ClothSpot

      Hayley thank you so much for the binding tips! I know for a fact that I hung my pattern pieces over a rail before sewing them – in hindsight a really stupid thing to do…doh! Thank you too for the encouraging comments – I’m getting used to the idea of colour (but am still retreating ‘back to black’ all too regularly..) I will persist!

      June 28, 2017 at 3:00 pm

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