Thursday, February 23, 2012

Can we talk about prints?

OK - sewists and fashion gurus alike, can I have a bit of help please?
Prints:  I am confused.
Dahlia Fashion:  cat print
On the one hand, the thing that is most likely to attract me to clothing in shops / online is an interesting print.  So, I look at Dahlia Fashion and their silhouette prints of black cats or swans and I want.  Only the polyester-ish-ness and the skimpy cut of the garments prevent a major self-stitched vow-breaking incident.
And some garments scream "Buy me! Buy me!" while my head screams back "No - you look too much like Boden, Boden in that print!"  because they are.
And sometimes I see another sewist do something fab with a distinctive patterned fabric and spend the next week scouring the internet to find it... only to chicken out at the point of purchase because it would be "copying" and her blouse looks better than anything I would make.
Hmmm. 
Here's the thing:  I want to make Simplicity 7457, with a print body and a white collar, to wear to work.  I had picked out a yellow pansy print, but on closer (web-based) inspection I realised it was quilting cotton and it would look as if I had cut up an old duvet cover to make it.  Which I wouldn't mind if I had, but if I am buying brand new full-price fabric that's not the first look I would aim for. 
Polka dots would be an obvious choice... but I already have two navy and white polka-dot blouses.  Three would be going too far.
Gingham appeals, but comes dangerously close to school-uniform-chic, especially with a white collar. Same problem with seersucker stripes.
Which brings me back to animal prints and florals.
Ditto Fabrics £6.50 per metre
Animals seem... too childish and casual for work?  A sophisticated animal is hard to find.  Not an actual leopard or tiger-skin print, you understand... that's too grown up!  Anyone seen a black animal silhouette cotton print anywhere? Nope - neither have I.
So... florals?  I have a couple of Liberty print Senchas which I wear a lot in the warmer weather.  And a ditsy floral 1940's blouse.  I just don't want to look... twee.

V&A Horrockses print on sale at £4.25 per metre
Maybe the secret is to go all-out vintage repro and hit the roses or the daisies?  
Ditto Fabrics £7.99 per metre
Do you understand my confusion?  Prints seem to carry so much sub-text.  They carry associations with particular brands or eras or ages.  I don't want to look too young, too old, too "middle-class mummy", too... anything.  Prints require a different degree of confidence from their wearer.  They provoke an identity crisis that I just don't need!  Over-thinking again, Roo.

So tell me, dear readers, how do you choose a print?  Is it enough that it is is "pretty" or the right colour, or do you need to see its birth certificate and talk to its mother before you ask it out to play?

37 comments:

Felicity from Down Under said...

Oh, this made me laugh, and I do feel your pain. I want to make a blouse to wear to my work and the fabric I'd love to use has guitar-playing skeletons on it. I think it would be all right, despite the extremely conservative (legal) field in which I work, but my husband has vetoed it. Perhaps he's right. That's not advice or helpful, but, you know, if you like it, what's the problem if other folk don't? Their problem. I'm longing to see what you come up with! :)

Lucy said...

I do see entirely where you're coming from on this one. I'm firmly in the latter category but then I am a cautious introvert by nature, and a relatively skint one at that.

beate said...

roo - you say what don´t want, but more importent for choosing chlothes is to know/say how you WANT to look! this makes the process easier :-)
i´m a big lover of print, often wear two or three diffrent prints together, just the colors have to match.....
btw - this roses would look great on you.

Lucy said...

(You should definitely go for the elephants, though!)

xtiand said...

Colour makes a difference for example a blue, yellow or green (substitute own school colours) gingham blouse with a white collar would make me think of school uniform but black gingham makes me think of Audrey Hepburn. Try spoonflower for black/grey animal fabrics eg http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/173794 or http://www.spoonflower.com/fabric/584500 or you could even design your own.

Evie said...

Prints give me hives. I LOVE them but they scare the heck out of me. I blame the '80's and the family archive of printed awfulness that I wore. It's a miracle I wasn't arrested by the fashion police.

That said...the rose print with either a white or red collar would be amazing for work, but the elephants are AWESOME, so perhaps they could find a place in your wardrobe too?

shivani said...

ooo - elephants!!!! :) Etsy is great for animal prints, but you need to have the patience to wade through pages and pages of results.

I'm very impulsive with my fabric purchases, and I love prints. but I actually don't seem to have much by way of mad prints in my RTW wardrobe. I have a tendency to over-think (hence my hesitation about my elephant blouse, which i now wear all the time).

Sarahel said...

I laughed too - the laugh of self recognition. Your description of the sub texts of prints is brilliant

Christine Laennec said...

Thanks for the laugh, and yes you're so right about the subtexts. I tend to choose things that I like the look of, often for colour as much as anything else, and I don't worry too much about what other people will think. I suppose this is because I know that my own associations will be different from theirs anyway? Maybe that's one of the lucky aspects of being a "ferriner" - you're allowed to be weird and play by a different set of rules? I don't have all the cultural associations of where I live. (But does anyone these days?)

When I did a lot of sewing my biggest challenge when using prints was fitting the scale of them to the project.

KW said...

I know what you mean about prints - I made a lovely dress in my favourite murky colours only to realise when I wore it for the first time that it was actually a pattern of very small snails! Not sure how I missed that earlier but it definitely put me off the dress. I also think prints - when wrong - are the first thing that scream homemade. So sorry - a really unhelpful response!

Jane said...

Oh I'm definitely in the first camp, I simply can't resist a pretty print. I've got a ridiculous weakness for gingham and don't care about looking like a schoolgirl, I just can't help myself.
I do agree about there being a fine line with animal prints looking childish rather than sophisticated. I'm not trying to bankrupt you or anything, but I love this rabbit fabric from Fabric Tales so much....

http://www.fabrictales.com/STORE/store.cgi?cart_id=2355329.8902.s0&product=wgz&productid=91145&sales=0&lastmenu=

When I wear the blouse I made from it, most people don't actually realise they're rabbits.
Yet another weakness is rose prints, in fact I'm seriously considering that rose print from Ditto. I'd go for the full-on vintage floral look if I were you, you pull it off so well. x

Gaylene said...

Japanese prints like Echino can be fabulous; I fell in love with one which had a silhouetted 'big cat' prowling through undergrowth, in gorgeous colours. Just use whatever makes you feel good, after all, you totally own the purple shorts!

Jill said...

That elephant print is simply awesome. I'm drooling over it.

Good luck with your version of this pattern! I can't wait to see how it turns out because it's making it's way to the top of my queue!

Emma said...

Follow your heart and stop caring so much about how it might appear to..., who exactly? Follow your heart and reflect your personality.

Lin said...

I have just bought some prints for a couple of Jasmine blouses. In my planning, I found that the thought of a solid colour collar helped to tone-down the printiness. I have also gone for a small geometric print which has felt more palatable than something large and splashy. I am hoping to pick up confidence thereafter!

LinB said...

Go with your original instinct! I love the idea of the pansy print with a pristine white collar. Your personal coloring will be enhanced by the yellows and browns. The original blouse would have been sewn up enthusiastically in a cotton floral print, in what some now deride as "quilter's cotton." There was no separate category for quilting fabric then. If you liked the style of blouse, and you wanted a yellowish floral print in a plain weave, you went to the store and bought pattern and fabric and sewed it up. You might have used your scraps for quilt pieces, if you were frugal and/or liked to quilt. Fabric is fabric. It is the user who determines end use.

Clare said...

I love the elephants and think the print is very subtle and wearable. If I hadn't had a mad late night splurge on a bicycle print yesterday, I would probably be checking out the elephants now instead of adding a comment! I'm a huge fan of prints even if my day to day choices don't always reflect that.

Andrea B said...

I never have a problem finding prints I like, but finding them in apparel fabric is a different story. Why is every fun print a quilting cotton? Or chiffon, which I refuse to sew with because I want to maintain my sanity.

I'm a fan of geometric prints, chevrons, lines and circles, but really only if it's small scale and has a simple two-tone color palette. I think you can get away with animal prints for sure, but this blouse is pretty cutesy on its own with the rounded collar so it may be a bit much! I personally recommend a floral, maybe more small-scale than those roses.

I did find some prints on Etsy that use animal silhouettes in a subtle geometric way so you don't really notice on first glance. But again, they're all quilting cotton. :(

Anonymous said...

I love prints too, but I work in an accounting office and the unofficial uniform is drab and conservative. Being a short woman and a minority at that, it's hard enough to be taken seriously. I limit sewing prints to a few summer tops (floral, not too crazy, e.g., Sorbetto with a jacket) and leave the really fun prints for non-work clothes. I think it really depends on your work situation, but if you have to think about it this much, it's probably a real issue.

didyoumakethat said...

Roobeedoo, Roobeedoo, Roobeedoo... I can't believe you are actually making me type this. Did you not see my blog post this morning? (I know you did!) What you NEED IMMEDIATELY is some fun dino khaki cotton print. Do I have to spell it out?

Roobeedoo said...

Karen - you know perfectly well I read your post. But I wrote this first! And surely your dino-madness is evidence (if ever it was needed) that some people ought not to be allowed to shop on eebaay?!
Hmmm... dinosaur print blouse with a lacey collar...? Err... no. :D

Xtiand - Spoonflower! I forgot! Thank you!

So many wise comments! Particularly the "stop caring about what people think" lobby!

Keep it coming! ;)

Scruffybadger said...

Hmmmm. It was thanks to you that I did something foolish in the print department. Yep. Pink elephants. So far from my usual " I know what I like and what works". I will have to try very hard not to make a top that appears to be girls pajamas. My usual print buying route involves usual suspects of dots, florals, checks, stripes. I find anything else takes courage as it is outside my comfort zone. Pink elephants is SO outside my comfort zone I wouldnt be surprised if I came out with hives. To match. And why pink? Because I didn't want to blatantly copy shivani. See. You said that too. You are not alone.

Lizzi said...

If it speaks to you - choose it - if you have to think about it then it isn't right. I love the elephants but I'm just saying' - you have to wear it so choose what you like - and forget what others think.

Tanit-Isis said...

Oh, Roo, I love you! But I fear I can't help with the prints, they've never really been my thing. Even my RTW wardrobe is mostly plain. Stripes or polkadots are about as wild as I ever go.

Texture, on the other hand... texture I like playing with.

I do like the elephants, though.

Perhaps you need to be on the lookout for that yellow-flowered duvet cover?

Anonymous said...

My vote is animal. The elephants are very cool and I think prints with birds are also very trendy. At least here in America (California). I also think the elephants would look really nice in you, you should go for it!

Sarahel said...

I got home last night to find a Great Plains catalogue and thought of you - they've got horse prints, on a dress and a cardigan. Does that give you a bit more of the family background of animal prints?

Roobeedoo said...

Sarahel - so that's where I saw the horses! I was looking back and thought it was Joules and then I couldn't find them. But there are definitely too many class associations with horses! Hunting, shooting, fishing, ra, ra, ra! (Even though I found a similar print at Spoonflower!)

Stitchandwitter said...

Hheeh I have to say I love prints but it often causes a few odd conversations. I have a blouse I made with little whales on it, and someone thought it was a tribute to the 'fail whale' on Twitter! Any print with cats on it inevitably has me pegged as a crazy cat lady... but then again... I am...

tim's wife said...

Zoos have signs that say "please don't feed the elephants" but somebody PLEASE feed that model. Give her a "feed me" sign or something. She looks half starved to death!

paul said...

Beautifl polka dots!

jessica said...

Oh dear, now I really want those elephants!

Prints are SO fun but can be tricky, I know what you mean. In my mind, I split them into a couple categories. Classics (dots, stripes, checks) are possibly easiest in some ways (though I see what you mean about the schoolgirl look) - I think that if you vary color and scale, you can go from prim to modern very quickly. My ex-boyfriend had this olive-green checked button down that I'm still trying to replicate :-P.

Then there's whimsical prints (like your elephants, or maybe giant spec's?). I personally LOVE those made up into a simple pattern, they induce the same effect in the wearer, say, bright pink wide-legged pants or purple velvet shorts.

For me, florals have always been the hardest and I haven't done much with them. Something about getting a grip on style of floral, scale, and color seems to throw me off. But so beautiful!

I say that if your heart calls out to a print, go ahead and go for it! You might also find that your plans for it shift as you make up a print garment or two ... it's OK to let these ideas percolate =). Or, you know, just dive straight in! If it's a print you adore, you'll find yourself willing to forgive quite a bit just to wear it.

Anonymous said...

OK here are new thoughts related to the blouse itself. I see whimsical prints popping up everywhere this year, so I think you will look spot-on, in terms of trends, if you go with that. I actually think this blouse could be surprisingly modern with a graphic print, either a small repeat or a large bold repeat (not floral or animals unfortunately but I think it could be a surprising and satisfying choice). Or, what if you did seersucker stripes and sent the stripes horizontal instead of vertical? If it was me and I was going to do animals, I would probably pick something with a small print and I might opt for a non-white solid collar that picks up one of the colors in the print. Or that looks boldly contrasting if that's your cup of tea (like if you did the elephants, what about a mustard yellow collar? Tangerine orange? Too much? Wacky? We love wacky! Tangerine orange, lengthen to dress length, trim sleeves with narrow tangerine binding?)

-Jessica

Roobeedoo said...

Jessica - thank you for your thoughts! Tangerine collar?! Ooh! I like that!

Tania said...

I love a quirky print but sew mainly solids! I've vowed to use more prints and a wider range of colours in 2012. Not that I want everybody else to buy them, but fabricland.co.uk have some lovely Katie Kandles bird prints... and one of them is white birds on a black background - get on it!

Roobeedoo said...

Ooh - Tania! Thank you! I will pop on my sunglasses and try to navigate that website at lunchtime! ;)

Lucy said...

"Anyone seen a black animal silhouette cotton print anywhere?"

http://dittofabrics.co.uk/cotton-mixture-fabrics/bird-design-printed-cotton-and-silk-mixture-fabric

Yes, I am an evil temptress.

Roobeedoo said...

Lucy - thank you! Mind your halo doesn't get stuck on your horns! (Angel / devil - you choose!)