Why I hate “layering”

It is that time of year when it is often very cool in the morning and quite warm later in the day. For many the answer to this problem is layering. I find that that isn't any kind of answer.

I have no aesthetic objection to sweaters over shirts or anything like that. The problem, for me, is that a shirt that looks good with a sweater or a vest over it may not look good when you get rid of that top element. I don't like the look of high necklines (on me) for example but that's the kind of top I wear under things.

Furthermore, if it's the right temperature for a particular sweater, wearing that sweater with something under it makes it too warm. Several days last week it was cold enough in the morning (and in the house because, let's face it, no one puts the heat on in September if they can help it) to wear a chunky sweater. Later in the day it was too hot, especially outside in the sun. Because I tend to only get dressed once, I just suffered. (In the winter, I would have worn that sweater all day and then put a coat over it to go outside.)

Often for this kind of cool but not cold weather the best option is to add some kind of thing under-layer. Getting rid of that layer later in the day is also kind of problematic, especially if you are not at home. It's not like taking off a cardigan.

This only really becomes problematic when I'm buying/making new clothes. Neckline choices depend on how I'm going to wear something.

I recently bought some long sleeved t-shirts. If I was just going to wear them alone, I'd go for a scoop or v-neck. But that limits the season in which I can wear them rather a lot. Realistically, most of the winter, I'm going to put a vest or a cardigan over that t-shirt and keep it on all day. That means the scoop or v-neck is in the vest/cardigan and I need a neckline on the t-shirt that complements that. Turtlenecks and crew necks are what I bought.

Of course then I felt like I still didn't have anything to wear in those very short periods of the year when I want one light long-sleeved layer.

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patterned fabric and cowl necks

This post is part of a personal blog project to Find My Style. Please read the first post for an overview of what I’m trying to do and what kinds of comments I’d like. Thanks.

The photo of this top surprised me. This is another find at Eddie Bauer and it is really comfortable. I wear it with black dress pants for occasions that require being a bit dressed up and the only thing I really don’t like about it is the fact that the cowl neck edge isn’t really finished so it’s hard to get it to drape without the inside of the fabric showing.

It has a lot of things I like: lower neckline, 3/4 sleeves, hem at a good spot for me. It’s super comfy fabric (a light cotton knit). And the print isn’t too girly.

When I took the photo my first thought was that the pattern distracted from the shape. And I started to realize that I really should have tried the smaller size. The top fits VERY loosely. It’s not awful but I need to think about those things when I buy stuff.

This is part of a pattern with me. I’m worried about stuff being too tight, so I end up with too loose. This is a knit so the wider hip thing might not have been a problem.

Things to take away from what I like about this top: cowl neck. Seriously. They were popular in the late ’70s/early 80s when I was in high school and I never figured out how to wear them and didn’t like them much. But this neckline I like.

Other things to remember: Andrea S is right. Patterned fabric can be tricksy. Her rule of thumb is only use it when you LOVE the pattern.

I’ve found some things that might help me with that:

A tutorial for a draped tank

And another: I’m not as keen on the underbust folds that the author of this post seems to desire but her notes on what adjustments to make to get that neckline are food for thought.

Renfrew top has a different kind of cowl but also seems like a good basic knit top pattern. I’d been avoiding it because the top size seemed to small for me. But if I pick a size based on my upper torso measurement their 16 is close enough.

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Sorbetto finished

Here’s the photo of the top I was talking about in that other post.

Pattern: Sorbetto by Colette Patterns

Fabric: silk that someone gave me many many years ago. The centre pleat and neck binding use a piece that was a paler blue that I’d done some silk painting on.

Interestingly, given the discussions about fit and so on, the back fits well below the shoulders but the shoulders are very wide. (I compared them to that purple top and at least 2″ wider.)

I’m pretty happy with this and will wear it. I love the colour. It is very comfortable. But I’m not likely to use this pattern again, or if I do, I will make a lot more adjustments.

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Red buttoned sleeveless

This post is part of a personal blog project to Find My Style. Please read the first post for an overview of what I’m trying to do and what kinds of comments I’d like. Thanks.

Buttoned higher

I like this top. It’s a relatively heavy weight cotton but comfortable even when hot. I have had it for several years. This kind of red is one of the colours I particularly like to wear.

There are 2 pictures because I decided to experiment with the neckline. This top has buttons right up to the top. The photo on the right has only the top button undone. The one on the left has 2 buttons undone. I like the one on the left better. In general crew necks and other high necklines are not to my liking. It’s the vertical proportion, I think. I just like that break in the long expanse above my breast that even opening that extra button gives.

In these photos you can see the armhole gaping I mentioned in the discussion of the Sorbetto top. This top fits ok across the bust, though it’s snug. (That’s not gaping below that button it is unironed shirt folding back.) It also fits well at the hip though the slit side seams help prevent pulling here.

I’d welcome advice from someone more experienced, but it seems like maybe I need more room in the bust at the front and narrower shoulders. If I were to make myself a buttoned shirt like this, using a pattern with princess seams as Darcy suggested, I could definitely make those adjustments. With a purchased shirt (as this is), I suspect I went for a compromise on the size to avoid bagginess and the front is a bit too tight at the bust to make the back fit better.

This process is making me realize that maybe I need to make myself a buttoned shirt with 3/4 sleeves and princess seams. Maybe an open neck style, rather than a button to the collar style that is then left open.

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Beige patterned button up top

This post is part of a personal blog project to Find My Style. Please read the first post for an overview of what I’m trying to do and what kinds of comments I’d like. Thanks.

beige patterned topTaking this photo made a big difference to how I thought about this particular top. This is one that Mat bought me from Fat Face a few years ago. It is a very thin cotton and definitely more of a summer top. That said, it looks nice with my purple cords in the fall and winter and I have a knit vest that I wear over it.

The style is a bit more “girly”. There are tucks down the front. It is shaped more at the waist. And there are gathers on the sleeves at cuff and shoulder.

It is buttoned all the way up in that photo and the open neck design works to give that neckline detail that I know I like.

The hem on this falls above the widest point on my hips. Thinking about that as I write, I wonder if the width at that point balances better with my shoulders. (The slight gathering at the sleeve cap might also help here.)

I’ve never thought of myself as having narrow shoulders until I started this. (I used to be a prop-forward on a rugby team. My shoulders were kind of important.) However, in comparison to my hips they are. I’m going to have to give this hem length more thought because in general I’ve been drawn to the slightly longer length in terms of vertical proportion but then I haven’t really taken the photos well for that.

This sleeve length is also one I wouldn’t normally choose. However, it works well vertically with that hem length in a way that a 3/4 length might not. It also draws attention to the waist a bit more, an area I wouldn’t mind emphasizing more even in a looser top like this one.

This top is also comfy. It fits well. It’s loose enough to be comfortable while being fitted and shaped enough to feel flattering. The fabric is a fine cotton. I love this kind of take on a floral print. There are butterflies. And the shapes are more stylized which I like. Those kind of random pops of turquoise also make me happy.

Based on my renewed appreciation of this top just from taking the photo I ordered the Jasmine pattern from Colette the other day. The bow is so not me but the neckline and other features seemed quite similar to this. (Based on Darcy’s advice in a comment on the post about Sorbetto, I am now thinking that something similar designed with princess seams might be better but it’s in the mail and on it’s way so I’ll consider that sunk costs and carry on.)


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Orange summer top

This post is part of a personal blog project to Find My Style. Please read the first post for an overview of what I’m trying to do and what kinds of comments I’d like. Thanks.

Orange empire waist, 3/4 sleeve topI’ve been having trouble articulating my questions clearly. Your comments here and on Facebook have been helping lots. Thank you so much.

At this point, I’m just focusing on tops and using the word “style” to mean style of top rather than overall look or whatever.

This orange top I bought a couple of years ago at Eddie Bauer. (I generally find something I like in that store, so often drop in if I’m in the mall for some other reason, usually Freya related.)

The colour is an attempt to branch out from purple. I am drawn to orange though I think it is one of those colours where shade and tone can make a big difference. This orange is good but not great. The fabric is quite a loose weave. I think maybe they are going for an Indian style. I bought it the same year I bought the purple sleeveless.

The main thing about this is that it is comfortable. Cool. Fits nicely from a comfort perspective. Now that I’ve started doing some ½ sun salutations before I talk to clients on the phone, I have discovered that the empire waist rides up when I raise my arms over my head and that annoys me while I’m doing that particular thing. But for most daily activities this is not a problem.

There is a drawstring at the empire waist and I’ve wondered about how tight to adjust that. Looking at it now, in the light of what I’ve already discovered, I think one of the things I like about this style is that it is fitted at the bust and then flows out in a nice a-line to the hips. The looseness at the hips is similar to the blue top, and very comfortable, especially in summer.

I really like 3/4 length sleeves and have for a long time. I also like sleeves that are wider at the cuff. The nice thing about that shape in a 3/4 length is that it doesn’t get in your soup. In the light of previous comments, that sleeve probably also draws attention away from the shoulder.

This neckline is a nice variation on the V and the scoop. I like the depth and so on. The hem seems a bit lower than other things. I haven’t really noticed that before and I don’t know what I think about it. It’s not tunic length but it is below the widest part of my hips. In something more fitted that would be problematic, but, in loose and flowy, it might be a good length. I think my thoughts on hem length are more about vertical proportion than what it’s highlighting horizontally.

The biggest problem I have with this top is that it is definitely a summer top and it’s really hard to layer something on top for a bit of warmth. I have been wondering about knitting a cardigan-vest with a similar empire waist to extend the wearability of this. There is now a large rip near the hem where I caught it on something but if I decide to add more in this style to my wardrobe I think it has implications for knitwear that would go over it. Any other ideas for that are welcome.

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Style vs fit

This post is part of a personal blog project to Find My Style. Please read the first post for an overview of what I’m trying to do and what kinds of comments I’d like. Thanks.

Sorry for the radio silence and the delay in approving comments.

In the meantime I decided to make a sleeveless top using the Sorbetto pattern from Collette.

The first thing I had to grapple with was which size. My hips correspond to the size 18 measurement and my bust to the size 16. Thinking about Amy Herzog’s writing about fit, and her view that we should use the upper torso measurement and then adjust the bust because that allows for variation in overall bust measurement for people with the same breadth of back, I would be more like the 12.

The pattern notes said that there was not much ease so I initially went with the size 18 and then picked out and recut the top part to the size 16 lines and darts because that was too big.

However, there is still some gaping in the armhole above the bust and one of my friends suggested that could be the shoulder and/or the upper back curve. She passed on advice from a sewing teacher of hers to pick the size based on shoulder measurement and adjust the bust, which is more or less what Amy H. says.

Pondering this, I realize that if I did this I’d be adjusting the pattern to make the size 12 top part gracefully extend into size 18 hips. Ignoring the front, where I’d obviously add width and length for my breasts, the back would end up very A-line. My upper torso measures 40″ and my hips 48″.

Hence the title of this post. The style of the Sorbetto is relatively straight with some waist shaping. It is not an A-line top. Do I adjust the Sorbetto in this way? Do I look for A-line styles?

Of course, there is always the issue that this pattern is a very basic top pattern, the value of which might be that I don’t have to draft the whole thing from scratch. But I think there is still a useful question here.

Am I looking for a particular range of styles and then making minor adjustments to suit my own unique body? Or am I adjusting everything?

And if I’m doing the latter, how does that affect the final outcome.

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Finding my style: A-line tops

This post is part of a personal blog project to Find My Style. Please read the first post for an overview of what I’m trying to do and what kinds of comments I’d like. Thanks.

Until I started taking these photos I don’t think I’d given much thought to the A-line shape for tops. My instinct would be to stay that an A-line would obscure my shape. But then I took these photos and looked more closely at stuff I own and like.

purple topThis is a top I picked up at Eddie Bauer last year. It’s a nice crinkly light fabric with an interesting detail around the neckline. If you click for the bigger photo you can see it clearly.

Looking at that photo I see that my waist is visible. And yet this is an A-line. Interesting.

I think this shape also helps with the fact that my hips are larger than my bust. It means that a top that fits well in the bust isn’t too tight at the hips, which is always a good thing.

The length is similar to the blue top and I like it. Sleeveless is definitely better than cap sleeves, making me think I could just take the cap sleeves off that blue top. I have the sewing skills for that, after all.

I like the depth of the scoop neck. And I notice that the collar detail works similarly to the gathering on the other top to separate my boobs. Avoiding mono-boob is high on my list of style points.

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Finding my style: blue summer top

This post is part of a personal blog project to Find My Style. Please read the first post for an overview of what I’m trying to do and what kinds of comments I’d like. Thanks.

blue summer topThis top is really comfortable. I’ve had it for a couple of years and wear it reasonably frequently in the summer.

Stuff I like about it:

  • V-neck
  • gathering just below the V-neck
  • loose, which is important in hot weather

Stuff I already knew was not ideal

  • cap sleeves

Stuff I notice from the process of photographing myself in it

  • That pattern is NOT helping. I’m not sure whether the a-line shape is obscuring my waist-line or not because those dark blue lines are attracting a lot of attention. I’m not sure I hate it but I’m not sure it’s ideal either.
  • I do like this length.

I cropped the photo to get a better sense of the neckline.

I like the effect of the gathers at the bust. And of the decoration. I do like a v-neck and that’s a good depth.

The sleeves are really not falling at the right place. Better lengths to be explored with other items but I think a short sleeve falling about level with my bust would be better.

I then tried it with a navy cardigan I often wear with this top and realized that I need to stop pairing that cardigan with this top. The cardigan either obscures my shape altogether (if left open) or interacts in very strange ways with those solid blue stripes.

Conclusions: A top this style with a different sleeve would be a good choice for me but I need to experiment with different fabric without such strong diagonal lines.

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My selfie photo set up

This post is part of a personal blog project on Finding My Style. Please read the first post before commenting.

The first thing I had to do was figure out how to take selfies that were going to be helpful in this project. A friend had shared a post that was really helpful for thinking about camera angles. I figured out the timer function on the camera and built this little rig:

With the camera on top of those books and me standing against the white wardrobe doors with the natural light… Works pretty well.

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