21 August 2009

168. Refashion 29: Coco Top from Men's Dress Shirt and "Dressing Your Age"

Before I forget: PR last night was fun to watch in a large group! I highly recommend trying this if you haven't done it before!

It always starts out with an idea. In this case, after a couple weeks of Chanel immersion, I got an idea to make a birthday top for myself, refashioned from a men's dress shirt, of course. I have wanted to get more comfortable with asymmetry since the start of the year, so this was a great opportunity to work on something simple and to play a little.

From Chanel: Black & white palette; "epaulets".

From me: Pintucks; asymmetry, buttoned openings at the shoulder to get in and out.

From my mistakes: Asymmetrical pintucks (below) didn't drape well so I made them symmetrical (as in photos above)... better but far from perfect; as a result neckline is a little poochy; cut the armholes way too low, so little cap sleeves were not an option; changed my mind about how I would use the shirt placket so there are no pintucks on the back; just an inverted pleat (sorry, no pics).

I have to admit that, after weeks of torturous pattern refining and production sewing, this was quite a bit of fun, even though it didn't turn out like I thought it would at all!

There have been a lot of thick topics floating around in my head...
I am really curious to know what you think about "dressing your age". This is subjective and personal, but please do share what's on your mind. For me, this has a lot to do with grace. When I turned 30, I got rid of those ridiculous miniskirts and chunky platform shoes in my closet. I mostly don't wear sweats ever, have banished most capri pants and hoodies for good, and assess, each year as my birthday approaches, if I feel like I'm "dressing my age".

What does "dressing your age" mean to you?


  1. That top is so pretty. You did a great job on it. I love it's complexity and simplicity. I enjoy things that are not symmetric.
    Re:Dressing your age - I believe in wearing what makes you happy and makes you look great!

  2. ooh dear... Blogger gobbled up my initial comment... I was just saying that your top looks crisp and very wearable. As far as dressing age appropriate, I think at the very least I have now identified the shapes that are flattering (on me). But I still have work to do in terms of looking more "put-together" and womanly.

  3. To me, age appropriate dressing means looking the best I can, embracing my age, rather than resenting it, and being confident in my choices. I think as I get older, I care more about the cut and how things flatter my unique shape, rather than price and 'shock value'.

    Grin ... Jennifer

  4. First of all--happy belated birthday! I love the top. The assymmetrical looks so cool and sorry it didn't work out. I love the black button tabs--very coco looking!!

    Dressing my age---hmmm. Since turning 40. I found that I do dress better. I try not to keep my work out clothes on too long after the workout--if you know what I mean! I do think my dressing has more to do with my lifestyle rather than age. My kids are getting older so I am home less and seen out more so I dress better. When I had 3 babies/toddlers at home I needed to be comfortable and my kids didn't care! Now I have more time for myself and able to look better.

  5. Oh, I hope you had a happy birthday! To have a birthday and the premier of project runway on the same day - special!!

  6. I like the top! And good question about dressing your age.... it's something I've begun to ponder, now that I'm just about at the end of my 20s. Right now it's more in terms of my work wardrobe. I'm still of the opinion that I can get away with dressing a little funkier-- after all, I do work in the arts! But at the same time, I want to look professional enough that my students' parents take me seriously, since I know I still look like a college student. So I'm still working on how to find the balance between looking the part and my more casual/boho chic tendencies.

  7. If I had to give up hoodies because I'm over 30, I would die. But, fortunately, I live in Portland where they issue hoodies at the city limits.

    But, seriously, I think it's odd that I find myself reverting to some of my favorites lately, such as longish tunic/dress with jeans, more Chucks Taylors, basically the stuff I loved in the mid-nineties. I am sure it's not age appropriate. I have a hard time balancing my age, lifestyle and location--and my interest in clothing/fashion/sewing/screenprinting.

  8. I really love your top!
    The concept of dressing for one's age is, I feel more to do with how young you actually look. I think, with my youthful Asian genes, I can get away with slightly more youthful looks than other 45-year-olds. But I still wouldn't wear minis because my legs don't bare well. Tho that doesn't stop me from wearing shortish skirts with opaque tights. Also, as I've gotten older, I've become a little more conservative in my tastes anyway.

  9. Too many things for one comment!!
    I love the top, it shows very well in the photo. I'm usually a symmetry person (which drives my husband crazy!) but I liked the asymmetrical pin tucks. Hopefully you'll find a way of making it work.

    On the idea that retro styles = acceptance of gender oppression. Look further back at what was going on before the 50's. Each era brought advancement of equality in humans. Each era also brought advancement of technology, including fashion technology. The women of the 50's were embracing what was new and pushing the boundaries of those who came before them - in many ways. The combination of today's technology, and advancements in it, make it possible for fashions to change at a much faster rate. But it also brings ideas and history closer as well. Look around and you'll see a huge range of fashion history from the ancient Greeks on up to this moment's live wired clothes. Certainly there were other periods even more oppressive of women, but we still embrace what we want of their fashion.

    And dressing your age... I think this is a more controversial topic than that last one! And frankly in this day, it can be much more oppressive! Aside from, let's see how shall I say it, clothing that suggests you'd rather be in the bedroom, anyone's bedroom, right now and not to sleep, I think there is a wide range of what is acceptable. If you TRULY feel in your heart that you look as good as you want to, then you should be left alone. If you're 50 (or any age really) and wearing mini's out of desperation to catch a man, then maybe you could use some good girlfriend time at the store to figure out what feels good to YOU. If you're 50 and wearing mini's because you love your legs and like admiring yourself then great. If you're wearing any version of sweats because you feel that is the easiest option and you're not worth any effort. There's a problem. If you wear them because you love them, fine. Of course, this is coming from a 31-yo who also ditched all the mini's and clunky shoes years ago and hasn't ever voluntarily owned a sweatsuit. And who feels she dresses to get by rather than to make a good statement.

  10. Hi everyone! Thanks for your comments on the "dressing your age" topic. I could have done more to elaborate on my own thoughts before kicking off the discussion, but I think I'm elaborating more than I should about a lot of things lately! LOL

    @Edris - Thank you! I knew there would be other asymmetry fans out there. :)

    @frogginette - Maybe a big part of "dressing your age" really is just accepting what looks best on our shape, no matter what is in style. I spent a lot of time in my 20's trying everything that was trendy even if it wasn't flattering.

    @Jennifer - All very salient points! Yes, I can see increased confidence as part of dressing one's age.

    @Cindy - I might have to wear this one to see Coco Before Chanel, as my homage! I spent my 20's dressing trendy without regard to cut and fit, and then the trap I had to get out of was dressing solely for comfort, esp. once my son was in preschool.

    @Pam - Thank you! It was a busy, busy, wonderful day.

    @Becky - There really are professional fields that almost require additional creativity in the way you dress -- because the job is creative itself. Being the exact opposite of boho, I now will direct your attention to any put-together boho looks I see online, in magazines, etc. Can't think of anyone who falls into this category offhand but now it's a challenge. And I like a challenge.

    @Sarah - I remember your hoodie love! I've never stopped wearing Chuck Taylors and love a good sneaker. I guess I try to make sure I'm wearing more tailored clothes with them. Sometimes I think I do dress like an 8-year-old, and I just accept it and get on with the day.

    @Violet - Yes, I think the age we appear has a lot to do with the perception people get when they see what we wear. Thanks for the b-day wishes.

    @Sarah@Neoteric.Traditional - I might get back to the asymmetrical pintuck experiment in another shirt. I knew I wouldn't sort it out in time for it to be my birthday top. :) I share your comfort separating style elements from their larger social context. Dressing your age is a concept that is very personal... seems to be a recurring theme on the style makeover reality shows. So many perspectives on what is acceptable and what is not!

  11. What dressing my age means to me - it's funny you should ask because I've been wondering why my preference in clothes is slanted towards the smock/tunic tops and dresses that you make as well as http://verypurplestuffs.blogspot.com/, which are very popular with the toddler set as well. To me, they are sweet, comfortable and flattering on many - not to mention simple to make. I can see myself wearing these dresses at 70!

  12. Well, first off -- I love the top. Very cute and I think I loved the pintucks graduating down the best.
    As for dressing one's age: I turned 50 this year. I find that so many of my favourite styles tend to suit a much younger person. I've compensated the best I can by just trying things on and choosing things that look the best on me. I frequently wear little short skirts (not minis, just above the knee), instead of shorts. I wear jeans, but cut semi-lower and not skinny. I've kept away from the empire-waisted tops and dresses because of breastfeeding five children (all now teenagers) and the effects of gravity, even with a great bra.
    Fortunately, I have always loved and owned several cardigan sets. I've accepted my arms and don't worry about my legs. In the end, it is 1-what we like, and 2-what we're comfortable wearing. This is what will enable us to dress well no matter our age. I love Trudy from Hot Patterns, who has a nice, broad view of the trends in fashion, and uses them to her advantage. She always looks great, and inspires me to try newer fashions. I find that I look at trends less -- not just because I love vintage and retro -- but because I love the interesting styles. But I try and incorporate little touches of trend into everything I wear (and sew).
    What excellent questions! Thanks for making me think . . .

  13. @Christine L - Your comment has got me thinking quite a bit! (Uh-oh.) I might elaborate more in a new post. Sounds like you're saying there are shapes and garments that look appropriate on a child, a grown woman, and an elderly woman. See? You've got my brain on overdrive here. :)

    @Jen - Thank you for the compliment on the top. I wish the asymmetry had worked out, but I might try again. I know you've mentioned Trudy at Hot Patterns before... I will need to watch the video you linked to a few posts back. There are a few Hot Patterns that really do seem timeless/ ageless/ truly classic.

  14. love the top and happy belated birthday.

    i need to learn to dress my age because i look very young for my age of 32. and because of my short stature, last year a substitute bus driver rolled through our neighborhood and stopped at our house (i was fixin' to leave for work and was wearing my hoodie and carrying my grown up lunch box!) thinking i needed to get on the bus! LOL!!!!!!

    plus i'm tiny so i can fit into cute and quirky kid's t-shirts of which i have a few ;)

    but i live in a college town and there are lots of different fashion niches.....

    but overall i am conscious that i need to try to dress more "grown-up" what that means i'm not quite sure. i am most grateful to have a sewing machine now though so i can create my own clothes since i have a terrible time trying to find stylish age-appropriate clothes that fit my slim petite body.

  15. 'Perfect'. AGAIN!!
    ;-)... Oh! And Happy Birthday!!

  16. Happy Birthday!...belated, but heartfelt, nonetheless!

    The top is great. I'm totally with the "symmetrical" pin tucks, it would have draped funny the other way, making one boob look bigger than the other.

    Dressing my age. There's a touchy subject. When a person, man or woman, reaches a certain age, it's time to give up the hairstyles, clothing fads and other trappings of the very young. It's not about style, rather; it's about dignity, about respect, about the world perceiving you as a responsible adult. Our clothing should fit well and be stylish. It can even be downright sexy in the appropriate setting and with proper supportive undergarments, but it should not scream "look at me!", or "I'm trying too hard to look like I did twenty years ago!".

    I personally want people to look at me and think "there goes a great looking woman". The key word there is woman, not 'girl'. Pushing 50, I no longer have the lean, hard toned body I had when I was 20. I've worked hard to earn the silver strands in my hair; I carried, birthed and breastfed four children to create the soft rounded belly and sagging bustline I now have; and I've done a lot of laughing and crying over the years to make these little crinkles around my eyes. I wouldn't trade any of it just to be able to wear a mini skirt or a bikini again.

    Thank you for the thought provoking question!


  17. I have been dressing like an old lady since I was about 17 (cardigans, blouses and comfortable shoes) so I don't feel self conscious about that. But as I am beginning to ease myself into to my 40's I have started to feel a little bit bothered by those schoolgirl hairpins that I wear almost everyday. But I'll probably rock them anyway. As for pants and Converse type of shoes (my other style signum) I love that style on older people too, so I don't think I will trade that one either.

    What I have stopped wearing though is ratty second hand clothes. They looks fab on a 20 year old, but as one gets older it just looks like ratty lady. I can't explain why exactly, but I think it has to do with how we project things in our society.

  18. love the top and love the asymmetrical pin tucks! happy belated birthday... I don't have any words of wisdom on dressing your age, since I lie about my age... but not specifically like "I'm 32 so I'm dressing 32". I'd like to dress in my fabulous mid thirties forever! combining youthful freshness with the maturity of buying quality.

  19. I adore the top so much! I love the pleats and the epaulets and can't see this pooching you're talking about.

    Are capris a young thing? I always thought they were relatively classic and wear the 3 pairs I own endlessly through the summer.

    I think that difference in perspective alone might get at the heart of what it means to dress your age--that is, that everyone has a different understanding of what that means. For me, 28/29 was the age when I started feeling less comfortable in quirky tees. I'd say around that age, and also recently, I've been a *lot* less inclined to jump on trends: harem pants, rompers, shredded tees and the like. That said, I've seen some of those things on fashion bloggers who I know are older than me who've worn them well. For me, it comes down to confidence more than anything. But I suppose I could agree that a woman desperately trying to look younger than she is probably lacks confidence...

  20. I love the pintuck shirts! Hehehe... we live and learn. :) Happy belated birthday! I don't know what dressing your age really means. I kind of just wear whatever I feel like... hahaha. Sorry not much help from me!

  21. The question of dressing my age is one that I have been asking myself lately. I am proud of my 56 years and seldom think about my age except when it come to my style. I've worked hard to keep my body in shape and can wear many things others my age might not be able to get away with...but I don't think that just because I can wear something necessarily means that I should. My goal is to look stylish and not ridiculous and so I've had to pass on some of the fashions I see and love. The only time I ever mourn the loss of my youth is when I'm flipping through the pages of a fashion magazine or reading What I Wore. However, I think as a sewist I have the advantage of being able to create my own ageless style- always a work in progress.

  22. Lovin' the asymmetrical pintucks!

    What else do you have in your bag o' tricks?!

    Weeellll, I didn't quite get rid of all my hoodies. (Remember the comment I made about them?) I've kept one.

    As for "dressing my age," I'm a skinny petite, so I really don't want to look like I shop in the same department as my 9-yo daughter. And I definitely don't want to wear shoes from her department as well though I fit them.

    Sometimes, I think, the phrase "dressing your age" has been used to replace unkind or insensitive remarks thrown at women who dress themselves "inappropriately." (What's inappropriate? And by whose standards?) I suppose, those who don't dress their age can be considered childish (or matronly, whatever). But if I see my daughter dress in this "childish" manner, I would not let her leave the house.

    It's a state of mind. One can't simply tell another to "dress your age." As I recall, growing up doesn't start in the closet or [gasp] clothing stores. But I guess, it's a sad fact here in America, where clothing, the ensemble of it, represents the person of whom we aspire to be.

    It can get ridiculous too, can it? We can take it to extremes. Does a 29 yo dress the same as 30 yo? "Oh, that was sooo last year." How about when 33? What clothes do 33 yo people wear?

    I think, "dressing your age" means going shopping, because it points out that you are in need of something you obviously don't have.

    Remember the Coke ad? Thirsty? And suddenly, you are.

  23. Happy birthday! I also love the asymmetrical pleats and hope you find a way to incorporate them into something. I wonder if you used them in a dress instead, if the extra fabric/weight of the dress would help counteract the pooching effect [that I can't really see]? Or used a couple fewer and spaced them out more?

    Anyways. Dressing your age. I think dressing your age has as much to do with context, lifestyle, and where you are in life, as it has to do with your physical age. Especially if you find yourself running up against outside expectations - other people's, larger societal norms and pressures, etc. I know for me, the pressure to tone down the quirkiness and color in my wardrobe comes as much from the fact that I look like I could still be in high school/college, as it does from the fact that I go to school with a bunch of people who want to rule the world someday [or, well, at least the WHO], and the presumed wardrobe that comes from being in that sort of 'professional' environment. But I also think there are ways to incorporate the essential components you love - silhouette, color, fabric, cut, or detailing, etc/ - into an overall look that can 'match' your 'age.' Likewise, I think most items of clothing can be worn across a huge range of ages, it just depends what you pair it with and how confident you are in them.

    Of course, I'm not a trendy dresser to begin with. I know the styles that work on my body and indulge myself with garments that have details I love every now and then.

  24. BEAUTIFUL. Brilliant. Cute. Current. LOVE IT ALL. My favorite part is the black fabric at the shoulders. Very cute touch.
    Happy Birthday!

  25. This is the first I've seen your blog! Where have I been? I absolutely love your style!!! Shoot me an email if you get a sec and I'll send you an invite to our blog (if you are the least bit interested...). ;)

  26. This is so great looking. I love the style and design you've put into this - it shows.

  27. @bookwormbethie - Thank you. Most junior's clothing isn't constructed with the same quality and age-appropriate styling as we'd want in our 30's, and petite sizing is still too big for the most part. It is good that we sew, isn't it?

    @MsMica - Thank you, my dear!!!

    @angelapea - I was thinking that most of us have asymmetrical cleavage, so maybe the asymmetrically pooling fabric could make the smaller one look the same size as the larger! LOL There's a saying that always gives me chills: "That's mutton dressed up as lamb." I don't ever want to be that woman. You know? Thanks for sharing what's on your mind. Makes a lot of sense to me.

    @Johanna Lu - I love that you've been a card-carrying member of the Granny Chic club since you were a teen! Haha. Great point about ratty secondhand looking quirky on a youngster but like ratty old lady on a more mature person.

    @glam.spoon - I love that you lie about your age. It seems to catapult you to "dame" in my book. I wonder if the mid-30's is kind of that magical age that designers want to capture for the broadest audience -- old enough to have lived and earned confidence, young enough to still have a great body without working too hard. Like 20-somethings aspire to this confidence and 40-somethings keep fit to stay in mid-thirties shape. ???

    @ambika - Thanks so much. I only took one photo of the asymmetrical pintucks before ripping them out and making them symmetrical. You can see a little of the pooling on the left-hand side of the photo if you're really looking for it. Wasn't the best shot to point that out though, sorry 'bout that. I think capris are pretty classic, too. You're right, there are some older bloggers who make very trendy things look age-appropriate. It's the desperation you described that makes me shudder.

    @NGLaLaLa - Thanks! :)

    @Elizabeth - Because I'm soooo curious, what kinds of trends/ fashions have you passed on even though you love because of the "age appropriate" thing? I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago who I believe is 55 or 56 (she told me but I can't remember). She is so stylish and confident and she told me that even she had gone through her closet(s) recently and wondered if she needed to re-evaluate whether she was dressing her age. Thanks for sharing.

    @poplin - I have no idea why I didn't see you comment until now. I usually get them via email but this one didn't make it to me. Anyhoodles, I think you've hit the nail on the head with "dressing your age" and "dressing appropriately" sometimes meaning the same thing. And by whose standards? The wearer and the judger, sometimes arriving at different conclusions! Does it seem that clothing as identity is a uniquely American phenomenon? I hadn't thought of it that way, but maybe it is. I have had a few notable "clothes make the woman" experiences such that I accept this and go with it. So far, dressing my age means the opposite of shopping -- for me it means culling my wardrobe. And using a different measuring stick for when I sew/ acquire. Thanks, lady.

    @jessica - I did pull on the bottom hem a bit to see what happened to the pooling fabric, and it just extended the unattractive asymmetrical gathers lower. Darn. ;) I didn't try different distances between pintucks. I do foresee more experimentation in the future, though. I agree that the overall styling is a big part of this "dressing your age" bit...

    @dana - Thanks so much!

    @careymc - I am so glad you found it!!!

    @ClaireOKC - I appreciate your support, and must give all credit to Mlle. Chanel for her inspiration. ;)

    1. i like hairstyles i want to say that these hairstyles are the fantastic thing thats ever i like i like them i can spend my whole life to this field.i like hairstyles i like some eboulous type of hairstyles because these long hair styles are one of those hairstyles which can make the personality of the man i like them very much.i want to say that hairstyles is the thing which can make the man or woman more beautiful.

  28. j'adore the pintucks!
    as for dressing my age, i leave the cutesy t-shirts for the gym (where i seem to be known for them--i even ran into a chick from the gym a few weeks back at a store and she was like, you're the person who wears the funny shirts!!)
    and i wear ruffles proudly, even if sometimes it seems a bit like a 5 year old thing to do. (at least i'm not dragging around my little pony or anything like that, not that i ever had a MLP)
    oh, i have finally given up most hoodies and also socks that are way too cutesy (now they are mainly striped or have floral prints or are, gasp, solid colors)

  29. I think the asymmetric top is very attractive...wouldn't mind trying one myself.

    In response to the dressing your age question...I am 58..not overweight and in reasonably good shape....I tend to wear what I feel good in, taking into consideration what might make other people around me uncomfortable. I dress pretty well for my age, if I don't say so myself. My children who are in their 30's think so too.

    The trick is to wear the styles you like in a way that makes people remember you in a pleasant way, not in a "YIPES!!" way. lol

    marky .. Mom of 4, grammie of 4.

  30. @Kyle - For my birthday, I got a t-shirt that says "I'm not short. I'm fun-sized!" LOL I've also moved to striped and floral socks, though I still have some candy cane ones for Christmas. ;)

    @Marky - Isn't it an interesting skill to learn to dress memorably, but not for all the wrong reasons? LOL I really liked the asymmetrical experiment but it did drape asymmetrically, as expected. I didn't work with it long enough to sort it out -- got impatient and made it symmetrical -- but I would love to see yours if you do pull off an asymmetrical one.


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