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A Girl Can’t Live on Bras Alone- Summer Dress & Style Crisis

by | Aug 21, 2016 | STYLE SEARCH | 25 comments

Hi All!

So this week- I was thinking- what bra/swimsuit should I make? What haven’t I made yet? What would be the best thing to make? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really REALLY need some more me-made clothes, and spending another weekend making myself a swimsuit or bra, would be a little bit out of line from my actual sewing needs at the moment.

That is not to say that it won’t return to your regular bra inspiration next week. This is just my little treat to myself for the summer since I am currently very clothing desperate!

And since I need some more summer clothes (especially before the summer’s over!) I thought I would make myself a simple little summer dress!

Now the other thing to admit was that I had grand plans this Friday of going to my studio with my mom and whipping this up along with a few other wardrobe staples, and then that turned into a day of me not feeling very well and my mom saving me at the last minute and sewing this up for me. Thanks mom <3

Details on the dress: this is based on the Caroline Tank Dress pattern, I made this last year for MMMay15 out of a fabric that turned out to be the itchiest thing on the planet and completely unwearable. So this time around I picked a really slinky rayon, in this cool blue &white print.

I like this style because it’s super simple and you can wear it all breezy like I have in the first two photos or you can polish it up a bit with a waist belt to give it more shape.

I have to admit that my style is something that I’ve really been struggling with for the last few months. Sian of Rebel Angel wrote a post on her changing style on her blog and I found myself nodding along while I was reading.

At the grand old age of 25 now, I’ve finally found a place where my body has started to settle. I went from being an average weight through highschool, to gaining weight through school, to graduating and eating my way through a life crisis to my highest weight, then finding my life direction and losing all the weight- back to my ‘average’ comfortable weight. I feel like now that I’m finally settling into my body, I’m having to accept it and figure out how to dress it- because my body shape is so different from what it use to be.

Most of my clothes are either from high-school, the odd me-made thing that I actually ended up working or active wear that I’ve bought along the way *thinking- well at least these leggings will still fit me no matter what*. Over the last couple of years I’ve been making huge purges of all my stuff that I don’t use or need, and clothes have been no exception (I feel SO much lighter when I get rid of clutter!). But it’s really highlighted the minimal clothes that I have left that fit and that I like enough. And you might be asking – why didn’t you just buy more clothes?- the answer to that is mostly- 1. I really don’t like shopping (unless it’s fabric) 2. I don’t like supporting unethical manufacturing that is used to make most of our clothing (so I try to buy thrifted clothes, or things made in Canada/US which are usually way out of my budget) and finally 3. I really have not figured out how to best dress myself yet- I’m very style confused!

Right now I’m trying to stick to basics- and build my wardrobe from the bottom up with basics that are quality and fit me well, so you might end up getting more- sorry it’s not a bra- it’s a basic white blouse! kinds of posts- because I’m not going to lie, I’m starting to get a little style desperate here- I’ve totally got the underwear and swimwear game down, I can be fabulous on any beach or boudoir- but the moment I have to put on actual clothes to go somewhere cool, I end up having a mini-meltdown in front of my closet.

How did you figure out your style? Any tips for someone who desperately needs some style help?

Well now that that long style tangent/desperate plea for your advice is over. I’ll tell you more details about this dress! One of the first amazing details that mom added was this super cute placket down the front. It’s kind of hard to see because of the print of this dress, but it’s about 5″ long, and just has some cute snaps on the inside, -just enough that I can leave the top one undone and it gives a more RTW look to the dress <3

The other alteration that mom made was to the back of the dress. I cut out a size large, because that’s what I had made last year, but in this slinky rayon, it turned out a little bigger than we were expecting and it was drooping a little around the armholes and sagging a bit in the back. So mom made a big inverted pleat in the neckline at the center back- and nipped those in closer together- which completely tighened up the armhole nicely (and gave a great shape to the armhole in the back- it’s a little more ‘racer-backesque’ now) And I think it gives a flattering look to the back, especially styled with a waist-belt.

And of course, Gibby couldn’t be left out! Mom made him a bow-tie to match my dress- which I can’t decide if this looks more “My dog is my furrbaby” or “I’m bringing my dog as a date!” Either way, it suits me.

Anyways, I hope you’re not too disappointed by the lack of boob-centric sewing this week, I just really needed something that would cover my body when I go out in the real world, and to get my little style crisis out in the open.

And you know, I DID use this as a bathing suit cover up in these photos, which could loosely, possibly qualify in the slight realms of the challenge (although I still won’t give it a BAW#).

After this photo I went swimming- which means I gently walked out to deeper water while holding Gibby, because he’s more of a shallow wading- kind of dog, but doesn’t like to be left behind, so I carry him – photo proof:

How has your week in sewing been?
Have you figured out your style?
What are the basic staples in your wardrobe?
Any suggestions to help a girl out with style?
Love you always!


  1. Gillian

    If we were just a little bit closer, I'd say we should trade sewing tasks – I'd whip you up some clothes, and you make me a bra! 😉
    I've been figuring out my wardrobe over the last 5 years, now that I can wear more casual stuff at work (When you work at a private school that costs $30 000/year, ya gotta look nice! In a public school? Bring on the jeans.) It's really helped me to find patterns I like and just band out a bunch of variations. Maybe it's time for you and your mom to sew you a little capsule wardrobe? I could see you in some slim-cut pants, a pencil skirt, a basic blousey woven top, and some button ups? That way you could dress everything up or down, look cute but professional, and then as you figure out your exact style, you've got some basics down. Do you have a favourite indie pattern designer? Sometimes it's easiest to find a couple patterns from one designer whose style you like (like True Bais, or Megan Neilson) because chances are they'd designed patterns that go together for a certain "look"!

    • EmeraldErin

      That would be a great trade- I'm WAY faster at bra-making than I am at regular clothes sewing!

      I definitely admire how you've come along with your wardrobe- and able to keep to your colour palette too! And I think duplicates are a good idea- I think I'll just make singles of everything for now until I'm completely sold on a piece. Those basics are great ideas too- my mom is reading this comment and she was like- yes to all of those!

      I don't currently have a favourite designer, I find that I only like a couple things from a lot of different designers, but I'm always on the lookout – every time I look I find 10 more indie pattern designers!

      Thanks for the advice!!

  2. allie J.

    I'm still figuring out my style but I think I'm getting closer! I know some people have good luck with Wardrobe Architect… it's a bit too rigid for me, but I find pinterest boards help a lot!

    I think your lingerie style is a little bit retro, a little bit glam, while remaining casual/wearable, so maybe try to map that on to your clothes style as well? My favorite clothing make of yours (I think) is the off-shoulder nettie you made, which I think fits that bill: vintage-y, glam-y, but in a simple knit top that you can pair with jeans for a casual day or a pencil skirt at the office or a full circle skirt on date night!

    That's my two cents 🙂

    • EmeraldErin

      I'm definitely a pinterest addict, and I've been adding a lot to my sewing inspiration board and 'my style' board a lot lately, and I find that -as amazingly easy as it would be- I just can't seem to be okay with a capsule wardrobe.

      I think it's partly because I don't feel like only one style suits me all the time. I love your description of vintage-y glam-y but casual. I think I used to wear more vintage and glam clothes that were a little impractical, but I've just lost all tolerance for impractical clothes anymore, so they need to be super wearable for me! But all those ideas are great! I'll have to make another cropped nettie!

  3. Loganstitches

    Maybe you should look at the holes in your wardrobe, pick a couple of types of garments you want to make then make two boards for each- a yes and no board. Use that to figure out what you do and don't like, then see what your likes have in common. You might find some things to make and some insight into what your style is too.

    • EmeraldErin

      Thanks! That's a great idea- I think the holes right now are a lot of separates. I'll have to think about all of that when I plan my next makes- and hopefully it will help to make my wardrobe all come together too!

  4. missmaddysews

    Looooove the dress Erin! Opposite to you, I've been thinking it's high time to revisit lingerie sewing, now that my deadline sewing (ball gown come at me haha) is done for now! I always find that returning to one after sewing heaps of the other is such a sew-jo refresher 😛 I definitely get he style search struggle too – my weight bounced around a little in high school, and I thiiiiink it's mostly settled down now – and it definitely wasnt until the end of 2013 that I really started discovering my style; I'd buy so many clothes that I thought were cool but never wear them because I didn't actually like the style on me! Wasn't really until I started sewing that I started to get a handle on my style and work out that retro was my vibe. Even now, I'm still struggling to finally work out what staples I wear and need, and how to sew things that I'll actually get lots of wear out of! Aaaaaand I have far too many clothes, I definitely think a wardrobe purge is in order…

    In terms of advice, I guess all I can say is it's definitely a process of trial and error! Seeing what things you enjoy wearing and make you feel good, what works well for your lifestyle, whether you're a capsule wardrobe person (not me!) or someone who likes having a top and skirt that can only be worn together (definitely me haha). Looking forward to seeing your progress though, and makes of both clothing and lingerie variety! xxxxx

    • EmeraldErin

      I saw your ball gown- SO gorgeous- totally jealous!! I find for me that clothes can be a sew-jo booster, I think it's just getting out of any routine with sewing.

      Your style is so retro and it suits you so well! I think I'm somewhere in between having a capsule wardrobe and having clothes that can only be one outfit. My ultimate goal is just to love everything that's in my closet, and to be able to pick something out every morning without a panic moment and feel stylish 🙂 It's a journey! Also I'm so impressed with all these comments- I didn't know everyone was so eager to see my real wardrobe and clothing makes! I'll definitely have to mix it up more!!

  5. Kate B.

    Yes I love all your posts about lingerie and swimwear, but I'm also interested in all the layers that get worn on top so pretty much anything clothing interests me. I think your new summer dress is lovely. Cool, pretty and stylish for hot Ontario summer days. Looks fab as a beach/swimwear cover up too. I've been around awhile and I can tell you that your 'style' will change as you travel through this life. I've lived and worked in the city and the country and my everyday wear changed drastically between those two extremes. I've never been locked in to one particular style. I make and wear what works for me in the now and try to have fun with it.
    So, if you're looking for feedback on whether to post more 'overwear' I would vote yes please. I would also like to vote for more shape wear in the 'underwear' category. You don't need it but lots of us do and I bet there are other folks out there besides me who'd love to get some insight into making something to help lift and tuck 🙂

    • EmeraldErin

      I've already seen my style evolve through high school years, university years and now (the confusion years lol) But I feel like right now is a great time to really think about it and invest in it a little bit, because I'm at a place where I have a bit of stability with my future and what my day-to-day life is going to be like for the next several years. But I don't know that I could ever quite lock myself into one style either.

      I'm so happy for all the support of more overwear posts 🙂 And I will definitely take the suggestion for shape wear! Even if you're not looking for a crazy amount of tucking and lifting, it's great to wear under tight hugging dresses and dress pants! 🙂 🙂

  6. Sian Thomas

    Thanks for sharing my post! It's so interesting to hear your thoughts on this too as I share many of the same ones. I used to love clothes shopping but I'm starting to find it more and more of a frustrating process because nothing is really what I want it to be, and I still don't quite know what I want either! A good example was just yesterday, I decided to see what some online stores had in so went to Topshop, Urban Outfitters and ASOS and weirdly, ALL of these had an Adidas banner on the homepage which really didn't appeal to me at all! (Apparently that 90s sporty chic is back?!)
    I'm slowly starting to look forward to wearing my autumn clothes again as I have a few pieces in my wardrobe for autumn that are starting to look good to me again, so hopefully that might help a little bit. Although I am sad to think that summer will soon be over and I haven't really worn the summery breezy clothes I've been wanting to because I don't own them or haven't found them, so difficult!
    I really love this dress and hadn't come across that pattern before – another to add to my ever growing list. It's really hard to tear yourself away from bra/underwear/swimwear making sometimes – I understand! I wanted to sew at the weekend and found myself making another pair of briefs then being angry I didn't have the right notions for a bra so scowled at my fabric for a long time before giving up 😀 Ah well!

    • EmeraldErin

      I feel like we're the same person right now! Every time I look at clothes from H&M or Urban Outfitters I'm always disappointed – sometimes I get good sewing ideas, but I find their clothes are SO poorly constructed out of such bad quality fabrics that you know it will only make it through a dozen times in the wash if you really nurse it. (also I'm not down for the 90's sporty chic- I don't feel like I'm quite ready for my first decade of style to make a resurgence yet- I feel like you should be at least in your 30's before your childhood style comes back- fast fashion).

      I also feel a little disappointed that the weather is slowly turning colder and my favourite season is slipping away with a very disappointing wardrobe to show for it. Although I do love autumn too, and I think I'm going to try to make some transitional pieces along with some more autumn/winter pieces to add to my wardrobe. So much to think about – and of course I can't keep out of bra-making for too long either!

  7. Tanit-Isis

    I wondered how long it would take you to need to make some real clothes! 😉 Much as I've enjoyed the bra-a-week.

    Seriously, though, good luck on the style hunt. In some ways sewing can feel like TOO many options because of all the possibilities. You can have anything, but you can't have everything, so you have to pick. I'm guilty of making things because I like a fabric and that's what the fabric should be, not because it's something I actually want to wear.

    • EmeraldErin

      I wondered if everyone thought I just lived in my bras and bathing suits all the time!

      It is a little overwhelming diving into clothes sewing- especially when you have to think about style and having your clothes all come together to be wearable together. And I'm terrible for picking neutral fabrics that I actually want made into basic clothes- I always end up walking out with the bright prints! But I've been getting better at that too!

  8. Ilna

    I love your summer dress! I think it is good to alternate between lingerie, swimwear and "real clothes" too. It will be good to follow along with your style search and sewing a new wardrobe. Same as Kate I've also been around for some time and your style do change over the years and with different jobs and circumstances. I do buy clothes, but if I look at the cost, I think of how much fabric I can buy for the same amount and then stop buying. I need some basic bras (some of the pretty ones were not so wearable) and I need some summer clothes too, although my winter sewing list is not done yet! Currently I'm a skirts only woman, but it is because it works for me: you can swap bottoms and tops. I love maxi skirts.
    I think Gillian's advice is good: with a few classy basics you can go far while you figure out your personal style.
    I also think you look good in that Nettie.
    Keep us posted

    • EmeraldErin

      Thanks Ilna! I'm so happy to hear that everyone is as eager as I am to have a little more clothes sewing on the blog! I think I'll work on a few summer/transitional basics, and then I'll make some things that are a little more autumn/winter, and see how it goes from there- and as always I'll keep you guys updated <3

  9. Turbo

    Hi! I really enjoy your blog, but I think this is my first time leaving a comment. I had two ideas about your wardrobe conundrum. First, that dress is adorable! To fill in your wardrobe quickly, you could make a few just like that, and maybe some solid colors, that could transition to fall with tights and sweaters. Secondly, I have found it helpful to invest in a day of RTW "shopping", just to try on a bunch of styles to see what I like. You can snap some phone pics in the dressing room, and definitely bring a notebook to record ideas and make sketches, maybe even a tape measure. Thanks for all the great blog posts!

    • EmeraldErin

      Hi! Those are great ideas! I was already thinking about making that dress in black to layer for fall! And I think I'll have to do a day of RTW trying on, just to see what is figure flattering for me now, and feels comfortable on! Thanks so much for your input!

  10. Regan Louise

    I think that Pinterest is a large source of inspiration for me, especially for details that I like on garments I don't. Also I think going to stores and just trying things on is a big help. I did it recently and had so much fun experimenting with boho/hippie styles. Something like that can even just help you figure out, okay, I don't like waistbands to hit at my rib cage. Something that simple can narrow down your style. I also like Wardrobe Architect–mostly I like the week where you rate all these different design elements, necklines, fits, etc. That really helped me last summer. Good luck !

    • EmeraldErin

      Thanks! I should definitely look into wardrobe architect a little more, and do some RTW trying-on. I think one of the things that I should try on and look for are higher waisted styles, I have a really long waist (along with being 5'11") so it's hard to find pants and shirts that are the right length and height for me! I will definitely keep you all updated on what I find! Thanks!!!

  11. Sofía

    Such a lovely dress! I really like that breezy shape! 🙂
    I read Sian's post and it resonated with me too. It's curious that we all have more or less the same age (I just turned 25 last week!) and are having a bit of a style crisis! Mine actually started earlier this year, and I ended up donating about 2/3 of my clothes! They were mostly my high school clothes that, even if they still fit, I wasn't comfortable in them anymore. It left a huge gap in my closet that I'm still trying to fix, but it makes me really happy to see the pieces that are left, because they're clothes that I truly love and enjoy wearing 🙂 I'm still figuring out my style, but I think I've made huge improvements since last year! 😉

    There are two blogs that I'm using as some sort of "guide" through all this style crisis stuff. One of them is and the other is Maybe they can help you too! 😉

    • EmeraldErin

      Thanks Sofia!! And happy belated birthday!!! I love the makes that you've been sewing over on your blog! And it's great that you've been able to whittle your wardrobe down to only things you love- I feel like if I tried that right now with my closet I'd have two outfits! haha Also those sites are AMAZING- I'm completely in love with un-fancy and I'm realizing more and more that I have too much colour in my wardrobe and not enough neutrals that I like wearing more!

  12. craft sanctuary

    I'm still trying to figure out my handmade style. I totally feel ya with the settling and re-settling of the 20s body. I just turned 28, and I feel like over the past 8 years, my body has changed a lot, settled, changed, and re-settled. It's been a bit difficult to keep up with.
    I'd say that what works for me is finding something rtw that makes me really comfortable, identifying why I like it so much, and then trying to re-create it a couple of times in a handmade version. I've come to terms with the fact that I will never be 100% handmade, but I'm okay with buying something I love and then making a couple more on my own. It limits my consumption of goods made in other places (I'm making 2 and buying one instead of buying 3), while helping me figure out what I want and need without a closet full of me-mades that never get worn.

    • EmeraldErin

      That sounds like a great idea, I've been thinking about some of the things that I own, and why I like wearing them, and it's definitely something that I'm going to use as a guide. I also feel like there's nothing wrong with having a wardrobe that's a mix of me-made and rtw. There are somethings that I'm just never going to want to spend my time making, maybe in the future, but right now I'm still at the point where I'm going to buy some basics like white t-shirts and tank tops at a store, and if I like them I might replicate them in more interesting versions. Thanks for the great ideas!

  13. Beth Holmes

    i love your dress Erin, you look fab! i had trouble a couple of years ago with a changing style. in the end, i just chose a handful of clothes i really loved and built the rest of my wardrobe around them, often making more than one of something if i really loved it (for example, i have seven sewaholic
    cambie dresses!). i love pinterest as well 😀 i hope you find a style that you love (i also love seeing what clothes you make as well as all your gorgeous bras!)


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