Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sad pear, keepin it thrifty, and a bag that fits the bill

Last Friday I had to go to an interview. Times being tough and competition being fierce, I was more than a little stressed out about presenting the correct image. And times being tough, I didn't want to drop a lot of money on a classy outfit, but I wanted to be classy nonetheless. Boy am I glad I can sew.

Now, I didn't have time to whip up a clever dress for the occasion. How I wish I did. I went to Goodwill hoping to score big... and I did find a oh-so-perfect-dress. It was a simple black wool sheath with short sleeves, from Talbots. It fit like a glove on top. But I'm a pear, and the bottom was a serious squeeze to get into. No amount of letting out seams was gonna fit my derriere into that dress gracefully. It was a major disappointment. Imagine - a perfect interview dress for $6. If only! So I went home feeling defeated and wasted a bunch of time browsing websites for career clothes... Talbots, Ann Taylor, etc.

images from Talbots and Ann Taylor
The thing is, most professional looking dresses for women have slim fitting skirts. And if you're pear-shaped like me, you've probably learned that these shapes on RTW just won't work for you. I only have to glance at a dress and know it won't fit. Unless a dress has a generous amount of room at the hips - for example an A-line or a flared skirt - it's a no-go. Shopping for career clothing can get very frustrating very quickly. In the end, I took something I already owned and made it work. But sometime soon I would like to tackle a classy career dress made to my measurements. No more staring woefully at RTW dresses that will never work.

This story does have a bright ending though. Aside from the clothing conundrum, I wanted an inconspicuous bag to carry to the interview. I only own one purse, and it wasn't gonna cut it. I might not have had time for a dress, but a simple bag I did have time for. And I knew just where to turn... I've had Yoshimi's Hatoto bag bookmarked for at least two years.

It's an extremely simple shape. I think Yoshimi is just such a classy lady herself that she makes this bag classy too. So I decided to make one. And of course, looking to save money and time, I took materials from the thrift stores...

The dress on the left is wool, with minimal shaping. Ideal for repurposing! And the coat on the left is a faux suede, I think. Funny, Yoshimi's bag above is made from pink faux suede. I actually liked this pink coat. I was tempted to just do a refashion on it. But the armholes were too big, and that's one thing I've learned I can't fix easily. Plus it has a lining inserted, and the idea of changing both the outer fabric and the lining and getting them to fit back together nicely? I'm tired just thinking about it. So... on the chopping block it went!

I used the grey wool dress for the outer part of the bag, and I used the pink polyester lining of the coat for the bag lining. I underlined the wool in some very stiff sew-on interfacing to give it a little shape. While Yoshimi doesn't provide a pattern for a lining, she does show this photo of a bag in progress...

I followed her lead and made the upper part of the bag lining in the wool. And I used up the last bit of some black piping as an accent between the two fabrics.

I also added a zippered pocket, and a small pen/pencil pocket. For now the pen pocket is swinging loose. I could tack it down. I haven't decided.

Considering I rushed this project to finish it in time for my interview, I'm very happy with how it turned out. It's a nice size for holding papers, a notebook, even an iPad. And toward the end of the day, I stashed a pair of comfy shoes inside. The outside is nothing exciting, so I love that it has a bright interior.

In short, my sewing skills couldn't deliver a dress in time for an interview, but they did deliver a much needed accessory and for much less than I could have bought one. I probably spent $10 altogether on the thrift store materials. And I think I can get another bag out of what I have left. This time, a pink faux suede outer, and the black lining from the dress for the interior? And if people are interested, I'll do a tutorial next time since I won't be so rushed!

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