It's probably inevitable to end up asking yourself that question during Me Made May, isn't it? This was the first year I've taken part wholeheartedly - i.e. without getting bored and giving up half way through - and with more or less daily outfit photos. It's a funny thing, to put those pictures out there (out here) and see yourself through the eyes (or likes, or comments) of others for a change. Funny because that's what we do every day - put ourselves out there, in our outfits. And like it or not, that's the person that others see.
They see if we're wearing a trend. They see shapes, colours and a level of over- or understatement (perhaps carefully constructed, perhaps not). I think it's usually fairly clear to see whether we like what we're wearing, whether we feel comfortable. Maybe they see an image we're trying to project, consciously or unconsciously, even when that projection is the one saying: I'm not projecting anything, thank you. Those who know us well might be able to tell what kind of day we're having.
I struggle a bit with this. That on some level, "personal style" can only be perceived through the eyes and, well, the judgements, of others. I want to be able to say: personal style is about self-expression, regardless of what anyone else thinks. That those who look really great in their clothes are those who care least what others think of them. These things are true, surely. It's just that - I'm not at all sure what it means when I say: I simply want to feel and look good. Good how? Good to who? Is it really even possible, or indeed important, for my only judge to be myself?
I don't know.
The only thing I do know is that finding a personal style which works for me has been a lifelong battle and that finally, at the grand old age of nearly-38, it's a battle I now seem to be winning.
Cue another series of soul-searching questions...
... am I winning because I'm older and I give less shits? Because the sense of self that was so thoroughly purged by early motherhood has now risen from the ashes, stronger than before? Or will I hit my mid-forties and find myself wondering, again, how to adapt to a stage of life that seems to bring so many internalised preconceptions and ideas?
Is it because, nearly 40 years into dressing myself, I've finally worked out what I like to wear and what I don't? Is it because of sewing - that I know what I want, and can make it work?
Or is it because the online sewing community has turned out to be an unexpectedly uplifting place to publicly post photos of oneself - to, essentially, invite the judgements of others, and for those judgements to be ever kind, positive and empowering?
Again, I don't know.
The fact is, Me Made May is a brilliant opportunity for some collective, positive exploration of personal style. That I feel slightly awkward at my 'best' handmade outfits getting more likes than others, is more than offset by the overwhelming joy I find in other people's #MMMay selfies. If I'd had the time, there would have been likes for every. single. one.
When I put these collages together, I was thinking to analyse a little the outfits that really worked, and those that didn't so much. The drape drape tops above, one t-shirt weight and one sweater, turned out to be immediate favourites. My Linden sweatshirts, below, paired with various skirt/dress options, were also super easy to wear. Far and away the most-repeated item of the month was my Turia dungarees, which was unexpected, but it seems I love the bib neckline and the fact that they have no waist (err, duh). There may well be more.
Call it coincidence - but of course, I'm pretty sure it isn't - the pictures in these three last collages of the "hits" are also those that proved the most popular when I posted them on instagram.
And I'm left wondering: were these my favourite outfits before other people said they were that good?
And yet again: does it really matter?
As an aside, another thing I find intriguing is that these are among my most recent makes. Are sewists drawn in disproportionately by the new and shiny, I wonder? Is that inherent in the fact that, one way or another, we're all making our own fashion - and that's just what fashion does?
Well, I'm not attempting to answer any of these questions. In fact, I'm going to go all postmodern and say that I think the questions probably are the answers. (I love that that kind of evasion was basically how I ended up getting a decent degree, haha! Gotta love the humanities!)
If you're interested in thinking more about this kind of thing, I highly recommend reading through the intelligent and perceptive discussions going on in the comments of Karen's recent post on her Merchant & Mills Factory dress. There is a wealth of food for thought there, about dressing for and through the transitional stages and ages of life.
Now, I want you to tell me: what's your take on personal style - can such a thing exist without being filtered through others' eyes? Does that matter to you, or not?
And, surely I'm not alone in this: are you too perpetually curious about the age of other sewcialists??? I find it impossible to tell - some of you are spring chickens barely into your twenties, others of us bear the weight of many years! I always think of 'us' as being all the same, indeterminate age, but of course we can't be.
GO ON... I told you mine, now tell me yours: how old are you?! :-)